March 2011 home page

  Contract Smell
Ann Gardner | Via Latina


Photo Illustration Art Olson


Retroactive approval of two 22nd District Agricultural Association contracts related to the proposed sale of the Fairgrounds to the City of Del Mar seemed suspiciously “timed to evade the state’s mandatory budget and contract approval process,” Del Mar resident Laura DeMarco explained after raising the issue at the Fairgrounds Board meeting February 8.

The Fair Board approved the two contracts on the February Consent Calendar without any discussion. One contract for “Consultation Services and Development of Public Awareness Campaign Regarding Impact of Senate Bill 1(which authorizes the sale)” not to exceed $75,000 started on November 1, 2010 and ends on April 30, 2011. The second “Legal Services Regarding Impact of Senate Bill 1” for the same maximum amount started on December 1 and ended on January 31.

During Public Comments on February 8, DeMarco told the Board she had brought the issue to the attention of their attorney, Deborah Fletcher, last December but had not gotten a response. DeMarco also told the Board she did not believe it was legal for public monies to be spent on lobbying the public. Fletcher confirmed that she had met with DeMarco but had asked that her concerns be provided in writing before she would “look at.” The board provided no further direction or comment.

After the meeting DeMarco said it was outside her experience as a member of public boards to have sitting counsel unprepared to advise board members on issues brought up by the public. “The attorney asked me to provide case law supporting my allegations. That’s not my job. It is hers,” DeMarco said.

According to DeMarco, Board approval is required on all contracts over $50,000. Further, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) required the 2011 budget submission by November 30, 2010 to include all contracts and expenditures for their approval. Would a timely approval by the Board and subsequent disclosure to the State have resulted in questions about the legality of the contracts? DeMarco has submitted a letter regarding the issue to CDFA but has not yet received a response.
“It (isn’t) just a matter of the legality of the expenditures,” she said; “it seemed like more than poor governance when the contracts are finally slipped into the consent calendar for the Feb. 8th meeting after (one) contract has already expired and the (second) is more than halfway over.”



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