The Orange County Fair and Event Center’s board of directors is remaining stagnant against California Senate Bill 264, which would specifically ban gun shows occurring on the property, saying their fairground site is being unfairly targeted in the bill.
During a Sept. 13 board meeting, the directors sought to send a letter to the governor’s office asking him to veto the bill, as well as to consider preapproving a 2022 rental contract with the Crossroads of the West Gun Show that would allow the show to continue on for 2022.
“The fact of the matter is that SB 264 originally started out as something that would ban gun shows from all state properties. It had been further amended to only exclude gun shows at the Orange County Fair and Events Center,” Board Chair Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia said.
Rubalcava-Garcia also said that if the fairgrounds lose the gun show, they’ll lose nearly $1 million in revenue, which is something they can’t afford.
“We are a fairgrounds that generates revenue, and are pretty self-sustaining, so it would create a gap in the budget,” she said. “And I do think that it is the board’s duty as the governing body who was appointed by the governor to send a respectful letter, just letting him know the economic impact so that we can have it on the record.”
The first draft of the letter asked the governor to veto the bill, something that there were disagreements with among the directors, who said the board isn’t supposed to take political positions.
“The 32nd District Agricultural Association Board of Directors opposes SB 264 and respectfully requests you to veto the bill,” the draft reads. “The 32nd DAA Board of Directors has historically approved the type of events held at the OC Fair & Event Center in response to the needs and interests of the surrounding community. In 2020 the Board of Directors voted 5 to 1 to allow gun shows to continue operating at the OC Fair & Event Center as long as they are legal in the state of California.”
The letter goes on to state that Sen. Dave Min, who authored the bill, never consulted with the board to see if there were nonlegislative options to address his concerns.
Director Robert Ruiz echoed that the OCFEC was being singled out with the bill.
“I was under the impression when the bill was first introduced, that this was going to be a statewide thing. So I figured, okay, it’s a big state-wide thing,” he said. “But then the bill was amended and now we’re the only ones that are going to be affected by this. I’m just having a hard time understanding that. Again, I’m for gun safety, but getting rid of this gun show doesn’t address the issue that we have with guns.”
Min said in a letter sent to the board of directors that there is precedent for gun shows being banned from singular fairgrounds, such as Del Mar and Cow Palace.
But Rubalcava-Garcia said the boards of those fairgrounds had voted themselves to ban gun shows, which is a completely different situation.
“This legislation is not law until the governor signs it,” she said. “So that is why the board, as appointed gubernatorial members of the 32nd DAA, are really the ones who are here to help govern. The other thing I also want to highlight is, if this isn’t good for the entire state, how come it’s good for the 32nd DAA? Those are really the issues I think that the board needs to keep in mind as we’re discussing and reviewing the letter that we’re proposing we send to the governor.”
Ash Alvandi, Min’s chief of staff, read a statement from Min at the meeting arguing that the board should be careful about entering into a bad faith contract, or they could be held personally liable.
“The board’s job is not to respond to local concerns or to act as a political body, but rather to act simply as a fiscal steward of the 32nd Agricultural Association. This is why Senate Bill 264 was necessary in the first place, because the board correctly noted that they could not make a political decision here. For the board to weigh in with Governor Newsom would be directly contrary to his past statements, as well as the clear guidelines for the board’s governance,” Alvandi read from Min’s statement.
“What the board would be doing if it preapproved a long-term contract at a special meeting called immediately after SB 264 passed out of the state legislature would appear to be clearly a bad faith contract intended to evade or thwart the purpose of this legislation. As such, I believe that any such contract that were to be preapproved at this time and in this matter could be avoided for being contrary to public policy.
“Let me be clear, if the board does engage in such action, I will explore all options to invalidate all contracts that it proves in this manner, including through litigation or through new legislation. Moreover, me and my advisers believe that if the board is found to have entered into these contracts in bad faith, that members of the board who voted for such a measure may potentially be held personally liable.”
After more discussion on the matter about the exact way to go about both the letter and the contract, the board voted to table both items for the next meeting, on Sept. 23.