Solorio Asks The Governor To Stop Sale of Fairgrounds

Assemblyman Jose Solorio

Assemblyman Jose Solorio

Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim) issued the following press announcement Wednesday:

SACRAMENTO – In a letter dated Dec. 2, 2009, Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim) requested Governor Schwarzenegger to stop the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds. Citing numerous questions and disturbing facts that question the legitimacy of the sale process, the letter concludes:

Assemblyman Solorio submits legislation on the Assembly floor today to repeal the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds.

Assemblyman Solorio submits legislation on the Assembly floor today to repeal the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds.

“I strongly request that you stop the current process to sell the Orange County Fairgrounds. Under the current circumstances, it is not in the best interest of California or Orange County to sell this valuable property. Consistent with this request, I have also introduced legislation today (AB 1590) which would repeal the section of Assembly Bill X4 22 related to the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds, and plan to conduct additional hearings in Orange County and Sacramento on the process if the sale is not stopped.”

The complete text of Assemblyman Solorio’s letter to the Governor and other supporting documents are attached here.

Although Assemblyman Solorio was one of 76 legislators who voted for the fairground sale in July as part of an effort to balance the 2009-2010 budget, he became concerned when questions about the bidding process and future of the Orange County Fair were raised. With Assemblymember Van Tran, Solorio held a November 19 public hearing on the issue in Costa Mesa to try to gain a better understanding of the pending sale process and to gather input.

“What I learned is the process for carrying out this sale has been tainted by misinformation, misrepresentations, conflicts of interests, questionable legal and ethical activities, and a potential constitutional barrier regarding the sale of the property,” Solorio stated in his letter to the Governor. “In the event that there are any criminal implications, as Governor, surely you would want to wait to learn the results of the investigation before continuing with the sale.”

The criminal investigation referenced in the letter pertains to Orange County Counsel Nicholas Chrisos’s formal request to the Attorney General’s office asking for an investigation into questionable actions of the Orange County Fair Board members in their attempt to form a private fair foundation and purchase the property. There have been allegations that the Orange County Fair Board (a public board appointed by the Governor), which oversees the state-owned Orange County Fairgrounds, has violated Government Code Section 1090 and the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act by forming a private foundation to bid on the property.

Solorio’s letter to the Governor also questions whether the sale of the property will generate the $96 to $180 million that was originally estimated. The letter states: “Given the continuing weakness in the real estate market, the City of Costa Mesa’s opposition to the sale of the property and its new efforts to further restrict the zoning of the property, potential bids for the property most likely will be nowhere near the estimated purchase price.”

The state’s Department of General Services (DGS) has not conducted an appraisal of the property and DGS staff admitted at the public hearing that they have no idea what to expect as a reasonable bid. Although the property’s request for proposal lists the property “as is,” in a letter DGS sent to the Cost Mesa City Council, the DGS demanded that Costa Mesa stop its pending fairgrounds zoning restrictions, as they “will greatly diminish the property’s value.”

“Since I am now convinced that the State of California has not positioned itself to maximize the price of this particular sale, nor is it setting best-practices for future transactions, I plan to stop it,” Solorio said in a statement released announcing the contents of the letter. “In fact, I believe the circumstances have been set to encourage low bids and discourage private sector bids. We can sell the fairgrounds only once, let’s stop, evaluate the process and do it right.”

State Assemblyman Jose Solorio is the Chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee and also serves on the Assembly Education, Transportation, and Appropriations Committees. He represents the Sixty-Ninth Assembly District, which includes the cities of Anaheim, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana. For more information about Assemblyman Solorio, visit www.assembly.ca.gov/solorio.