Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez’ request for a state audit of the Los Angeles County Fair Association will be heard before the Joint Legislative Audit Committee on Wednesday, January 13th at 9:30 am in the State Capitol.
Assemblymember Rodriguez requested the state audit after a Los Angeles Times investigation raised serious and alarming concerns about the Association’s finances. The investigation found that the association lost a total of roughly $6.25 million from 2010 through 2013, though it rewarded its top executives with large bonuses and incentive pay, somewhere in the amount of $8.75 million dollars. The executive salaries are grossly out of line with other fairs in California. The Association’s President and CEO James Henwood received nearly $900,000 in total compensation in the year 2013 despite the Association losing $3.4 million that same year.
“It appears that The Los Angeles County Fair Association is abusing the public’s trust,” said Rodriguez. “Year after year the association loses money yet it continues to reap public benefits and reward its top executives with lavish bonuses. The residents in my community deserve transparency and that is what this audit will provide.”
So far, it has been determined that the Association has collected at least $1.4 million in public dollars from the California Department of Food and Agriculture from 2005 to 2011. In 2010, the Association received over $6 million in federal bonds.
Originally created to promote farming and livestock, the Association has expanded their business ventures to include hotels, a catering business and conference centers. Last year the fairgrounds hosted two music festivals that resulted in the untimely deaths of two young women due to drug overdoses and over 300 arrests; most for drugs and alcohol.
The audit will examine the LA County Fair Association's financial operations and practices; the use of public funds; and their hiring and compensation practices to investigate whether any public funds that were received have been used appropriately.
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee is charged with ascertaining facts through investigations, reviewing reports, and making reports and recommendations to the Legislature regarding the revenues and expenditures of the State, its departments, subdivisions, and agencies. If criminal misconduct is found, the Committee in conjunction with the State Auditor’s office can refer the case for prosecution.
Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez represents the 52nd Assembly District which includes the cities of Chino, Montclair, Ontario and Pomona and portions of unincorporated Fontana.