COSTA MESA — In an effort to avoid further legal battles, the Orange County Fair Board canceled Saturday’s meeting, which was scheduled, at the state’s request, to have a vote on transferring the title of the Orange County Fairgrounds.
Fairgrounds President and Chief Executive Steve Beazley confirmed Tuesday that the meeting was canceled. He said an e-mail from Michael Glenn Witmer, the state deputy attorney general, would not advise the board on whether to keep the meeting or cancel it.
“The attorney general said they would take no action on our request for direction on moving forward with the board meeting,” Beazley said. “Board Chairman David Ellis decided he did not want to expose the board to this lawsuit and decided to cancel the meeting.”
The Fair Board was directed by the State and Consumer Services Agency last week to meet Jan. 1 and vote on transferring the property from the 32nd District Agricultural Assn. to the state.
However, the meeting would have violated the temporary restraining order issued by an Orange County Superior Court judge and extended by the appellate court until February.
“The execution of a quitclaim deed … is a major step toward the sale of the fairgrounds,” said Thierry Montoya, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case against selling the property.
The restraining order prohibits the state from taking any further steps into selling the fairgrounds to Newport Beach-based Facilities Management West, the company selected as the winning bidder after offering $100 million for the 150-acre property.
Meanwhile, a hearing on whether the state should sell the Orange County Fairgrounds has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Feb 8 in Santa Ana.
At that time, the state Court of Appeal will decide whether the fairgrounds should be sold to Facilities Management or if it should stay in public hands.
The lawsuit was filed by a group of businesses led by Jeff Teller, president of Tel Phil Enterprises Inc., the company that runs the weekly swap meet at the fairgrounds. A second suit, which was later merged with the first, was also filed by a group of local and state officials, including State Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim), school board member and outgoing Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley, and the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society.
Although Judge Michael Brenner of the Orange County Superior Court ruled against the case earlier this month, the appellate court decided to hear it.