COSTA MESA — Opponents of the Orange County Fairgrounds sale have warned the state and the Fair Board that more legal battles will follow if Saturday’s meeting is held.
In letters to the state deputy attorney general and the Fair Board’s attorneys, opponents say that voting on a transfer of the fairgrounds title would violate the restraining order issued against the Department of General Services (DGS), which oversees the facility’s sale. The order, which was extended last week to February, forbids any steps taken to finalize the sale.
The state Consumer Services Agency, which oversees General Services, on Thursday asked the Fair Board to schedule the meeting to vote on transferring the title of the 150-acre property from the possession of the 32nd District Agricultural Assn., the entity that governs the fairgrounds, to the state.
“Whether the action is taken by DGS or other offices of the state Consumer Services Agency, it violates the explicit terms of either the temporary restraining order extended by the trial court or the terms of the stay ordered by the Court of Appeal,” said Thierry Montoya, an attorney representing the plaintiffs against the fairgrounds sale. “We advise these parties not to act in contempt of the court’s stay order, and stand ready to take whatever action is necessary to fully protect the court’s order.”
Transferring the title of the property would allow the state to sell the fairgrounds to Facilities Management West, the local investment group that placed the winning $100-million bid.
The letters were signed by Gene Livingston and Montoya, the attorneys representing the group led by Jeff Teller, president of Tel Phil Enterprises, the company that runs the weekly swap meet at the fairgrounds. They were also signed by Wylie Aitken, the attorney representing 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.
Steve Edwards, the attorney representing the Fair Board, said Monday that he had requested guidance from General Services. If he does not hear back, he said, “we have to make up our own mind.”
“If we don’t get that response, we have to make that decision,” he said, adding, “We’re trying to do the right thing for the county and for the people of the county.”
The Consumer Services Agency requested the meeting to transfer the title, despite General Services’ recent claim that the state is the rightful owner of the property. Documents found in September casted doubt on whether the owner is California or the 32nd District Agricultural Assn.
General Services did not instruct the Fair Board on how to vote on the property transfer, Fair Board Chairman David Ellis said.
Asked how he would vote, Ellis said, “intelligently.”
If General Services and the Fair Board proceed with the scheduled meeting, the opponents’ attorneys will ask the court to stop it, Montoya said.
Calls to General Services were not returned. Montoya said the opponents expected to hear back by the end of Monday on whether the meeting will take place.