Steve Beazley, president and CEO of the OC Fair & Event Center, has abruptly resigned, according to sources close to the fairgrounds administration.
The sources confirmed that Beazley sent a farewell letter announcing his exit. However, neither Beazley nor fairgrounds spokesperson Robin Wachner responded to calls for confirmation Monday night.
The closest thing to an official confirmation of Beazley’s exit is an agenda item for Thursday’s monthly public meeting at the end of the consent calendar titled “President and CEO succession plan.”
Beazley’s long tenure with the fairgrounds has been controversial in recent years, when he has been criticized by numerous fairgrounds activists, most notably the OC Fairgrounds Preservation Society.
As president and CEO he played a key role in the 2009 bid by the Fair Board to privatize the fairgrounds.
Beazley was central in the authorization of more than $150,000 in secret contracts to insiders, most notably former state Sen. Dick Ackerman, in an effort to steer the fairgrounds into the hands of a nonprofit entity formed by then-members of the Fair Board.
Ackerman’s own billing records, obtained through a records request at a state agency, show numerous contacts with Orange County legislators in the days before and after the controversial 2009 vote to sell the fairgrounds.
The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating to determine whether these contracts were paying for illegal lobbying efforts.
Beazley has refused to comment on anything connected to the bid to privatize the fairgrounds, saying that the Orange County district attorney’s investigation that cleared Fair Board members is the final word on the subject.
Beazley’s departure also comes as the Fair Board is in numerous negotiations with several private-sector groups to either purchase or lease the fairgrounds.
— NORBERTO SANTANA JR.