Padilla removed from Fair Board

COSTA MESA — The governor on Friday removed an outspoken critic of the proposal to sell the Orange County Fairgrounds from appointed office, the Daily Pilot has learned.

David Padilla was ordered to leave his appointed post on the Orange County Fair Board.

Padilla, who has been the lone outspoken critic of plans to sell the state-owned fairgrounds to a Newport Beach development company, said he received a call from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office informing him that his services were no longer needed.

"I asked for a reason," Padilla said. "I told them that I supported the governor since 2002, and I would've thought I would've at least gotten a reason, but I was told there wasn't one."

Padilla is the only board member who specifically represents the residents of Costa Mesa.

Matt Connolly, the governor's spokesman, confirmed Padilla's removal, but declined to elaborate, calling it a personnel matter.

"The only reason I can think of why I was removed has to do with my opposition to the sale of the fair," Padilla said. "Even though the governor has removed me, I plan to continue to fight this sale to the very end."

Padilla's term began in August 2005 and expired in January 2009, but he continued to serve. Board members whose terms have expired can remain in place until the governor makes a new appointment, Fair Board Chairman David Ellis said.

Ellis declined to comment on Padilla's dismissal.

The governor made about 15 appointments Tuesday to committees and boards — none to the O.C. Fair Board — statewide.

Board member Kristina Dodge and board Vice Chairwoman Joyce Tucker's terms have also expired, but they continue to serve.

Asked if Padilla was removed to make for a smoother sale of the 150-acre property to the Newport Beach-based Facilities Management West (FMW), the real estate company that offered $100 million for the fairgrounds, Connolly had no comment.

Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley said removing Padilla is the governor's way of pushing the sale through without opposition.

"It looks like they are trying to stack the board so they get approval of the FMW deal," she said. "The entire sale has been orchestrated by the governor's office to benefit FMW. This is just another example of their manipulation of the process. He was the most outspoken against the sale."

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