Scott Baugh’s “Non-profit, for the children” OC Marathon is actually FOR profit! And other surprises from the Fair Board Meeting.

“What did you say, Mr. President? ‘It’sh for the children?’ Is THAT what you said?”

Whatever, I wondered, was Scott Baugh doing at the Orange County Fair Board meeting last Thursday?  I recognized the longtime lobbyist, OC GOP chairman, and newly-minted warrior against the public employee unions he once loved, from pictures like the one to the right, where he appears to be using the Gipper’s bust as a ventriloquist’s dummy.  You would have thought Baugh would know enough to keep his distance from the train wreck of reprobates known as the OC Fair Board, at least publicly.

But as it turns out, this meeting involved Scott Baugh’s bottom line – he was there in his capacity as spokesman and lead investor in the OC Marathon, which was trying to finalize a five-year deal with the Fairgrounds for exclusive weekend parking (meaning evicting the OC Marketplace or “swap meet” for one more weekend each year, to the chagrin of the hundreds of long-suffering families who make their livings there.)

Herein lies the awkward hinkiness:  Since 2004 the OC Marathon has been well known as a non-profit charity dedicated to combating childhood obesity.  But last year, for convoluted reasons which Baugh can best explain for himself, the Marathon quietly became a FOR-profit entity.  Most folks who have participated in the event or paid much attention to it apparently assume it’s still a non-profit charity; that it isn’t seemed to be  news to much of the Board and the overflowing audience;  and we have a copy of a staff report to the Costa Mesa City Council from this past spring still mistakenly claiming that.  And, has the Marathon been blithely continuing to receive special treatment thanks to this confusion?  Why, yes, right and left.

Nick Berardino, the new, most welcome, Brown-appointed, trouble-making Board member,  demanded to know how much of the Marathon’s income was actually going to the “children” before agreeing to their unprecedented and burdensome request for a weekend a year of exclusive parking.

Ancient, ill-tempered foreclosure tycoon Dale Dykema roused himself to wheeze in Baugh’s defense that no other entities seeking to do business with the Fairgrounds are required to disclose what they’ll do with their profits, and that the $100 grand the Marathon is offering for a weekend of parking is generous and more than the Marketplace pays, both of  which observations seemed somewhat reasonable.

Partners used and discarded?

But Nick stubbornly contended that, having built up its “brand” on the backs of fat kids, having frequently been showered over the years with freebies on account of what it’s done for fat kids, the Marathon should now think of the fat kids as de-facto partners.  Actually Nick used the accepted idiom “the children” rather than “fat kids,” but what he said made good sense.  He even went out on a limb and suggested that if the Marathon gave 95% of its profits to the fat kids, the Board should consider waiving that $100 grand and letting them have the parking for free.  This totally didn’t work for Scott Baugh, who insists on keeping whatever charitable giving his new for-profit engages in a complete secret, leading observers to guess that is probably zero.

At least half of what was actually going on here was further draconian punishment of the OC Marketplace, the popular swap meet run by Jeff Teller who also was the person most responsible for scuttling the Fair Board’s plans to sell the Fairgrounds to themselves last year.  The vengeful Ellis and Dykema had already got the majority of the Board to refuse to renew Jeff’s (Tel Phil’s) contract for next year, which is exactly WHY the meeting was overflowing with furious VENDORS whose business is already suffering grievously due to the uncertainty of the Swap Meet’s future.

And this annual weekend of exclusive parking that Scott’s Marathon is demanding is another kick in the groin to these hundreds of vendors.  In previous years there had been no problem with the Marathon and Marketplace sharing the parking lot.  Scott, like any enterprising businessman, would like to expand the Marathon to more and more paying participants, but it’s doubtful he’ll really fill much more than half the lot.  And these vendors have children too, some fat, some thin.

Twilight of Dave Ellis’ Juice

Fair Board pugilists: Nick Berardino and Dave Ellis.

So Nick presented a compromise counter-motion which was defeated 5-3, and the five-year contract was approved – still it was notable that two members voted with Nick and against Dave Ellis – gone are the days when everything Ellis wanted passed unanimously.  More notable and important, really, was another motion made by Nick, to “halt plans to seek bids for a swap meet in exchange for a month-long negotiating window with [Jeff Teller’s] TelPhil” passed overwhelmingly, opposed only by the dead-enders Ellis and Dykema.

We are seeing the gradual decline of Dave Ellis’ baneful influence on the Board, as more and more members find themselves swayed by Nick Berardino’s combination of folksy reasonableness and relentless logic.  It also doesn’t help that speakers like Sandy Genis, Theresa Sears, and Greg Ridge (who was unexpectedly invited to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance!) continue to take the stand to remind the rest of the Board of Dave’s countless misdeeds, as documented in my celebrated tome, as well as the ongoing multiple investigations into Dave’s misdeeds up in the Inland Empire.

Yep, Dave Ellis is certainly a sinking ship, wise to disembark while there is yet time.  And the Ascendancy of Nick continues apace.

Tribulations of the OC GOP Chairman

My impression of OC GOP chairman Scott Baugh – and maybe it’s just because he had a lot of money at stake that day – was of a very nervous and jumpy big guy, especially when I was near him, especially once I told him I was a blogger.

Irrepressible BABS!

At one point my pal Barbara Venezia – from whom the adjective “irrepressible” is never distant – sidled up to Scott and asked him an unusual question:  She’d been told, by some prominent conservative Republican whose name I didn’t catch, that it was possible for homosexuals to “pray away the gay,” and that that was a conservative position.  Babs wanted to know, from the chairman of the Orange County Republican Party (putatively also a conservative) if this really was a conservative position:  that The Gay could be Prayed Away?

Scott looked like he’d swallowed a hummingbird:  “Um, Barbara, why do you have to do this to me?”  His eyes showed the quick shaky calculus of competing landmines and pitfalls:  “Well, there are differing opinions on the subject … there are various studies …”

I broke in, “Don’t you know any gay people?  Aren’t there any gay Republicans in Orange County?  Do you really think…”

He snapped at me, “Do you mind!  May I please have a private conversation with Barbara here?”   I mumbled sure, and backed off a foot or two, thinking what a tricky job it must be to run the Republican Party of a large county.

Think of the uncomfortable, unlikely coalition you have to keep together – the greedy, the hateful, and the prudish.  If you’re friends with any Republicans, you know what I’m talking about:  Not all greedy people are hateful or prudish, not all hateful people are greedy or prudish, and not all prudes are greedy or hateful.  A Republican chairman needs to know when to throw scraps to each of those important interest groups, but mostly the greedy.

So, Scott couldn’t come up with a straight answer as to whether it’s possible to “pray away the gay,” whether or not gay people are born that way and deserve all the rights and respect the rest of us have.  And yet, funny, he was a real stand-up guy earlier this year against Islamophobia and racism… but that was when the culprits were his intraparty rivals, Deborah Pauly and Marilyn Davenport.

I have an idea next time Barbara wants to get a strong statement against homophobia from Scott – just tell him that it was Allan Bartlett who said you could “pray away the gay.”  Wait, scratch that – Allan would never say such a thing.  Okay, pretend it was Tim Whitacre then.  Semper Fi!

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.