COSTA MESA — Facilities Management West, a group of private developers that is trying to buy the Orange County Fairgrounds, wants to intervene in a lawsuit filed by a consortium of small businesses to prevent the state from selling the property.
A request to intervene or become a party to the suit was filed Monday at Orange County Superior Court on behalf of the Newport Beach-based group and the Orange County Fair and Event Center LP, the company that Facilities Management established to run the fairgrounds if the sale goes through.
A hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. If permission is granted, Facilities Management will be given a hearing in the case.
An Orange County Superior Court judge last week issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state from proceeding with the transaction. A hearing on whether the state can go through with the sale is scheduled for Dec. 8.
The lawsuit was filed by Advance Realty Services, Inc.; American Fairs and Festivals, which is made up of a group of small local businesses; and Jeff Teller, president of Tel Phil Enterprises, Inc., the company that runs the weekly swap meet at the fairgrounds.
"The last-minute lawsuit by Tel Phil, a three-time unsuccessful bidder — including one bid for a mere $1,000 — is nothing more than a last-ditch attempt to thwart the sale in order to protect its swap meet profits," Guy Lemmon, the Facilities Management spokesman, said in a statement. "This process has gone on for too long, and needs to come to a conclusion so that the state can receive substantial funds it needs and so that we can bring certainty to all those affected, including the many people whose employment we intend to continue."
The plaintiffs argue that the state gave Facilities Management an advantage by treating that group favorably. The suit also contends that the state's authorization of the sale of the fairgrounds was unconstitutional from the beginning, because profits from the sale of surplus properties must go toward paying off California's debt. In this case, the state is looking to shore up its general funds account with the revenues from the sale.