Group files new lawsuit over O.C. Fairgrounds

COSTA MESA — Claiming that the state broke the law, local and state officials have filed a new lawsuit intended to stop a private investment group's purchase of the Orange County Fairgrounds.

State Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim), Councilwoman Katrina Foley and the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society filed a lawsuit Friday in Orange County Superior Court asking to block the state from selling the 150-acre property to Facilities Management West, a Newport Beach-based company that offered $100 million.

Solorio said the plaintiffs are concerned that the Legislature was not given enough notice, and that there's a lack of information about the property's fair market value and the other bidders' terms and conditions.

"State legislators and local leaders feel that the administration did not follow the law with respect to the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds," he said.

The suit is similar to a complaint filed by a group of local businesses led by Jeff Teller, president of Tel Phil Enterprises Inc., the company that runs the weekly swap meet at the fairgrounds.

A temporary restraining order was issued by a Superior Court judge, blocking the state from any further steps to execute the sale. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The state's Department of General Services cannot sell the property, the plaintiffs claim, because it is unclear whether the state actually owns the title.

The suit also alleges that General Services did not follow the guidelines it issued when it placed the property up for sale and tailored the terms to help Facilities Management become the winning bidder. The property was also not appraised.

Tom Gibbs, the lead attorney for Facilities Management, said the lawsuit has no merit.

"This is a second effort to block the sale," he said. "It should have no more success than the first effort. We believe the process was fair, open and in full compliance with the law."

Former Mayor Sandy Genis, president of the preservation society, said, "We are confident we will win, we have good causes of action. We're disappointed the city is not pursuing this. The city has additional causes of action, which unfortunately won't get pursued."

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