Fate of OC Fairgrounds CEO Kathy Kramer Remains Unclear After Fundraising Controversy

BRANDON PHO, Voice of OC

Kathy Kramer has been absent from the Orange County Fair and Events Center Board of Directors' past two meetings.

For much of Thursday morning, Orange County fairgrounds officials couldn’t say whether their CEO, Kathy Kramer, was still employed by the state-run agency.

Fair board directors met twice this week – including one emergency meeting on Monday and their scheduled monthly public meeting – after revelations in the Voice of OC that Kramer sat on the fundraising board of a private religious college that also received state dollars from her agency.

Fairgrounds spokesperson Terry Moore couldn’t say for much of Thursday morning, until after the public meeting that Kramer is, as of Thursday evening, “still CEO.”

Yet Kramer’s immediate fate seems uncertain, amid Voice of OC’s reporting and the announcement earlier this month that she’ll be leaving the county for a fair agency in Washington by next year.

While Kramer isn’t expected to take the new position for four more months, she’s been absent from the OC fairgrounds Board of Directors’ last two meetings amid the scrutiny, where she usually sits with the board to help explain policies and contracts brought up by her staff for a board vote. She doesn’t make votes, as she isn’t a board director herself, but does lead the day-to-day administration of the 150-acre state fairgrounds in the midst of Costa Mesa.

Kramer didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.

OC Fairgrounds Board of Directors Chair Robert Ruiz said Thursday he anticipates that the fairgrounds’ board of directors will have a statement on the status of Kramer today – after officials avoided comment on the issue at the fairgrounds monthly public meeting Thursday.

When asked why the fair board has waited this long to react publicly, Ruiz said “all of it will be addressed in that” statement.

For now, it’s unclear if Kramer will stay with the agency all the way up until she steps into her CEO role with the Central Washington Fair in Yakima, Washington on Feb. 1, 2020.

Kramer didn’t attend Thursday’s monthly public meeting of the board of directors.

In the middle of that meeting, board directors went into closed session for over an hour to consider an evaluation of Kramer’s performance as CEO, according to the meeting’s agenda.

OC Fairgrounds board directors came out of that closed session and disclosed nothing in public about what they talked about.

Kramer also didn’t appear earlier this week at an emergency fair board meeting on Monday, which the fair board called after Voice of OC reported Kramer sat on the fundraising board for Vanguard University, a private Christian college across the street, since 2017 while the fair agency gave state dollars to the school.

At that meeting, fair board directors in closed session were scheduled to mull over unspecified issues with their attorney under a possible exposure to litigation, according to that meeting’s agenda.

Shortly after Voice of OC reported Kramer’s membership on Vanguard’s fundraising board, the Central Washington Fair announced on Oct. 15 that Kramer had accepted a position there as CEO, and would replace their longtime president Greg Stewart, who was retiring.

Members of the public turned out at the OC fair board’s Thursday meeting demanding answers.

“CEO Kathy Kramer was not at the Monday board meeting and is not at this board meeting, and accepted a job at another out-of-state fairgrounds,” said local activist and fair board watchdog Reggie Mundekis to the board during public comment, who added that the board “needs to tell the public whether Kathy Kramer still works here or not, and in what capacity.”

“Please elucidate what is going on with CEO Kramer,” added Anna Vrska, a local activist and committee member at the City of Costa Mesa.

Fair officials made no mention of Kramer’s status with the agency at any point during Thursday’s meeting.

“There is no update on Kathy Kramer’s employment status at this time,” Moore said after the meeting.

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC intern. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @photherecord.