EL CENTRO- During the past week the Imperial Valley Fair Board has held a series of meetings open to the public in order to deal with the growing antagonism of the livestock-showing community and the board.
The most significant of these meetings was a community meeting held on Monday, September 14. Parents and leaders of 4-H, FFA, and Grange participants as well as concerned citizens were in attendance.
The meeting addressed several complaints against the fair board who tried to foster an atmosphere of transparency.
For the past few months concerns have been raised over the fair board’s conduct. Many people are upset over the recent action taken against the Junior Livestock Foundation that until last June was being given 4 percent of auction funds by livestock participants. At the June 10 board meeting IV fair CEO, Theresa Garcia, said California Attorney General Kamala Harris stated that the foundation was illegal.
At issue also were auction checks not being sent out in a timely manner. The children used to receive their checks while they were still in school, now they are not receiving them until well into summer.
“The process was changed back in 2009,” explained board member Lindsey Dale “before that we cut checks and the fair was responsible for the money. This way the liability has shifted a bit but the kids are still getting their money on a timely base. We are not hanging onto that check.”
The board also explained that they believe one of the biggest problems in getting out the checks is that they are not always receiving full payment from buyers especially when it comes to add-ons and bonuses.
To try and avoid the problem of not receiving bonus checks on time, the board voted on September 16 to make all add-ons and bonuses due one hour after the sale closes on auction days.
Another concern is the fair is breaking its contract with the children in the livestock program.
Each year livestock participants sign the fair handbook stating they will follow all the fair rules and that they will donate 6 ½ percent of their auction money to the fair. The handbook states 4 percent will be donated to the JLF for capital improvements and 2 ½ is used for auction and auction expenses.
In withholding the 4 ½ percent of the 2015 auction funds from the JLF, the fair board would be changing its contract with the children after they had already signed.
“I believe my son signed a contract with you,” commented one parent, “how do you go about breaking that contract? Don’t you think it would have been more appropriate to wait till next year to implement that change?”
Garcia stated they wished they could have waited until next year but that they didn’t have that choice.
“The board was painted in a corner with the finances,” said Garcia.
Garcia also stated that the small print in the handbook allows the board to change the percentages if needed.
The handbook states that “percentages of withholdings may change as a result” of “an analysis of the auction expenses” done by the State of California Audit Office. However, as of yet no state audit has been mentioned, although Garcia said they have conducted their own analysis and could no longer operate with only 2 1/2 percent.
Board president Joe Montenegro told the room that some auction funds will be held in a reserve until the JLF and the board can write up a Memorandum of Understanding. So far the Foundation was unable to get the board to set a date to work out an MOU.