The Festering Fairgrounds Swindle Impunity.




Ugh – what IS that stench?  Well, it’s a number of things.  And some of them are closely related to this blog, injustices that we’ve been fighting against tenaciously for years with varying degrees of success, but which have all released clouds of unpleasant gas this month.  Three of ’em come to mind: 

The Festering Fairgrounds Swindle Impunity.

For the second time now, our useless DA has completed an “investigation” concluding, incredibly, that there was nothing illegal about the actions of Dave Ellis, his cronies on and off the Fair Board at the time (including Dale Dykema and Fair CEO Steve Beazley), and Dick Ackerman, actions they took in their failed 2009-10 attempt to get the OC Fairgrounds sold off to themselves – an attempt that backfired on them and led to an 18-month struggle and untold expenses and bitterness, after which the people finally prevailed in keeping our County’s prized jewels in public hands.  Actions that included:

  • Consequential decisions regarding the fate of the Fairgrounds taken secretly by a two-member committee dominated by Ellis;
  • Concealing the payment of $37,000 of public money for an appraisal of the property by routing it through a parking lot contractor;
  • Concealing, in the same way, the payment of over $150,000 of public money to lobbyists (including Dick Ackerman) to make sure the sale would be approved by the legislature;
  • And most famously, the lobbying by just-termed-out Senator Dick Ackerman of his colleagues, way less than a year after leaving office (violation of the Milton Marks Act.)

Norberto Santana’s long article on the subject, despite its professionally objective title and lead, betrays an undercurrent of rage and incredulity – because Norberto was right in the thick of it at the time, just as so many of us were – this blog, Greg Ridge, Theresa Sears, Sandy Genis, Reggie Mundekis, Katrina Foley, Wendy Leece, Gus Ayer, OC Marketplace CEO Jeff Teller, and many others I apologize for omitting. 

Together we spent literally incalculable time, money, energy and travel to defeat this heist – this after the crooks set the whole thing in motion using a couple hundred grand of our taxpayer money.  And as far as our useless DA is concerned, there was nothing wrong with any of this, and if it all happens again some day that’s just hunky dory.

Who will re-imburse Jeff Teller for the nearly two million dollars he (and his dad’s company TelPhil) spent in his self-interested but also altruistic and finally successful fight to save his family’s livelihood and YOUR public Fairgrounds – including the canny hiring of cutthroat consultants Faubel & Associates and top-dollar Sacramento lobbyist Parke Terry?

Sears and Genis, two lady detectives worth a legion of Rackauckas’ mealy-mouthed whitewashers.

Who will re-imburse Theresa, Sandy and everyone else for all the trips they made to Sacramento to stop this swindle – Theresa and Sandy who through cleverness, perseverance and dumb luck, managed to uncover the incriminating documents the DA didn’t even bother looking for in their first “investigation” … and then ended up pooh-poohing in their second one.

Stan Tkaczyk, former (anti-swindle) Fair Board Chairman, longtime Ellis foe, and I hasten to add, an honest Republican, was “stunned” that, despite all the damning evidence, the old Board’s efforts to deceive the public were given the the okay once more.  With bitter sarcasm he proposed to use similar mechanisms himself in the future whenever HE wants to avoid public oversight.  Because that’s officially okay now, in T-Rack’s county, you know?

Correa and Solorio

Up high on my list of “disappointing but not surprising” is the news, in Norberto’s article, that our two Democrats at the time, Senator Lou Correa and Assemblyman Jose Solorio, are now claiming to “not recall” what Ackerman was calling them about (and apparently “meeting with them” about) both before and after their votes to approve the sale late at night on July 23, 2009.

Fairgrounds detectives (my friends) uncovered phone records showing the phone calls from Ackerman to these two worthies, and as you may recall they both voted to approve the sale, along with almost all this County’s Republicans.  Consider for a moment how important Lou’s and Jose’s votes were:  the legislature then as now was heavily dominated by Democrats, who would naturally defer to our County’s two Dems in decisions affecting our County.  Lou and Jose could have stopped this whole thing from the start, but instead, seeing that even OC’s Dems wanted to auction off our Fairgrounds, all the other Democrats must have shrugged and asked “OK, why not?”

Following furious outcry from the public and this blog, Jose to his credit was the first to admit that he had made a big mistake and pledged to do his best to undo it.  Eventually, seeing how controversial the sale was becoming, Lou and most of the Republican delegation joined him.  Lou and Jose even signed on the next year as plaintiffs in a lawsuit to stop it.

But when it comes to getting even minimal justice, making sure these things never happen again, getting at any truth … you can count Lou and Jose out.  Apparently the first, half-assed, 2011 “investigation,” while taking a year and costing a million, didn’t even bother to ask them.

And now, five and a half years after the fact, when they are asked, they just can’t recall what Dick talked to them about.  (Their amnesia presumably also stymied the FPPC probe a couple years ago.)  Convenient, five years.

But think about it – how unusual must it have been (if it happened) to be asked by the former Republican minority leader to sign on to auctioning off your own County Fairgrounds for a quick budget fix for the state, and then to go ahead and do it.  Wouldn’t you think you would remember that if it happened?  (Or know for sure if it didn’t?)  Especially since these events were controversial WITHIN MONTHS, not five years later?

Diogenes searching for one honest OC politician.

I think Lou and Jose demonstrate ably that we have but ONE KLEPTO PARTY in this County – Republicans and Democrats alike united in determination to protect each other in a police-like Code of Silence (cuz who knows, you could be next on the dock?) – a Klepto Party presided over by our Exalted Administrator of Injustice Tony Rackauckas.

An honest, brave Democrat or Republican politician in this county, one who will stand up for the truth, is RARE – a rare person to be treasured if found.

And that’s all I have to say about that.



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.