The handouts, they said, might be an inappropriate use of public funds.
And time and again, fair officials promised to address the concerns. But they didn't.
Since the Pacific Amphitheatre reopened for business at the fairgrounds in 2003, fair directors have taken thousands of premium tickets for some of the summer's hottest musical performances, giving them to friends, associates and political donors.
At the same time, the concert series -- which has attracted such performers as Bob Dylan and Ziggy Marley -- has struggled to report a profit. In three of the last five years, the concerts have lost money, according to revenue reports.
Those figures do not factor in renovation costs at the amphitheater.
Fair officials say they are reviewing whether to change their policy, which allows each of nine board members up to 26 complimentary tickets to the best seats in the house for every concert.
For the LeAnn Rimes concert in July, for instance, that came to 247 seats in the orchestra section.
In contrast, Los Angeles County Fair officials allow each board member four tickets to each concert, typically in the bleacher section.
Board members are expected to pay if they want a better seat.
The biggest ticket-taker was Deborah Carona, the wife of former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona.
Over the last two years she used or gave away more than 1,100 tickets.
Many went to her husband, his political donors, members of the Sheriff's Department and a private high school in Orange. On occasion, Carona exceeded her 26-ticket limit and received unused tickets from other directors.
She did not respond to a request for comment.
The Orange County Fair is among five in California put on notice by the state for giving away too many free tickets.
The others are San Diego, Ventura, San Luis Obispo and Fresno counties.
Fair Chief Executive Becky Bailey-Findley and board President Dale Dykema promised the policy would be revised before the county fair opens in July.
They said it was too early to discuss details.
"We definitely will be making changes," said Dykema, who according to records gave most of his free tickets to charities. "At this point in time I'm not prepared to discuss what those changes will be. . . . It's not an easy thing to work out."