On June 8, 2019, a rainbow flag was raised at the OC Fairgrounds in support of the LGBTQ community. The first “Out at the Fair” celebrating LGBTQ families was scheduled to be held on July 28, 2019, during the OC Fair.
It would seem that the OC Fairgrounds is united in supporting the LGBTQ community.
Looking behind the publicity tells a different story.
The nine member Fair Board, appointed by the Governor, acted to welcome the LGBTQ community through the above actions. The Fair Board’s primary responsibility is overseeing the actions of the Fairground’s management staff. The OC Fairgrounds is owned by the state and staffed by state employees. State laws bar discrimination and must be followed. Even so, questions have been raised about potentially discriminatory actions at the OC Fairgrounds.
When the rainbow flag was torn down a few days after being raised, the CEO and her communications team did not want to publicly acknowledge the theft. The Fair Board had to intervene to have the theft publicly addressed. The CEO tried to justify their response to the theft in ways that a sideshow contortionist would have admired.
During the June 2019 board meeting, the Fair Board found out the CEO did not fund “Out at the Fair” (even though it is a scheduled function) due to lack of budgeted funds. At the same time, the CEO requested $25,000 of funding for the Pacific Symphony to allow the Pacific Symphony to give away free tickets to an upcoming concert (not funded in the budget). The CEO serves on the board of Arts OC with the president of the Pacific Symphony. Also, a request for $3 million over a five years to pay Spectra to operate the OC Market Place was also placed on the agenda (also not funded in any budget).
WATCH WHAT THEY DO, NOT WHAT THEY SAY.
A partnership with Vanguard University was created and promoted by the CEO. Vanguard University is a private university affiliated with the Assemblies of God with a clear opposition to same sex relationships. Vanguard University received $75,000 of state money during 2018 with $25,000 budgeted to be given in 2019. Vanguard University has also received thousands of dollars in free tickets, dinners, and rent. State law prohibits contracting with entities which practice discrimination such as Vanguard University, but the CEO did it anyway. The contract is now being investigated by the state.
As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” The public, who own the OC Fairgrounds, is waiting for the Fair Board to see what has been obvious (to anyone who would care to notice) for a while and to take action to end the problem. The public, who own the OC Fairgrounds and provide the funding, deserve better management and treatment than what has been provided.
Vincent M. Pollmeier is a former NASA system engineer, a patent lawyer practicing in Santa Ana, and a Director of Friends and Neighbors of the Orange County Fairgrounds, a non-profit group working to keep the OC Fairgrounds focused on the community.
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