Santa Cruz County Fair board to meet Tuesday amid ongoing Dave Kegebein firing controversy

Dave Kegebein, former CEO of the Santa Cruz County Fair
Dave Kegebein, former CEO of the Santa Cruz County Fair.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Dave Kegebein, fired abruptly in October as CEO of the Santa Cruz County Fair, says he hopes to “provide entertainment” at Tuesday’s meeting, at which he and his supporters aim to confront the fair’s board about the upheaval that also included the replacement of two board members.

Have something to say? Lookout welcomes letters to the editor, within our policies, from readers. Guidelines here.

An update on upheaval at the Santa Cruz County Fair

The Santa Cruz County Fair’s board of directors is holding its monthly meeting Tuesday, and though that might sound like a snoozefest for the lay public, this meeting is bound to be anything but that.

The board is still facing community outrage over the abrupt firing of longtime fair CEO Dave Kegebein — as well as the subsequent replacing of the only two board members who voted against firing Kegebein — last October. Kegebein’s community supporters — and even Kegebein himself — plan to be at the meeting to confront the board on the nature and rationale of the changes. In an email to supporters, Kegebein said, “See you at [Tuesday’s] board meeting where I hope to provide entertainment.”

CEOs and board members of county fairs throughout California serve at the behest of the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Kegebein and many in the community have aimed their anger at CDFA official Michael Flores who, they say, arrived at the county fairgrounds with uniformed officers of the California Highway Patrol and Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, then dismissed Kegebein for ignoring or flouting accounting rules in seeking reimbursement for expenses from the state. The charges were outlined in detail in an exhaustive audit of the county fair’s operations. After his firing, Kegebein then released a point-by-point rebuttal to the audit.

Board members Loretta Estrada and Jody Belgard, who both voted against Kegebein’s removal, were themselves replaced. Estrada and Kegebein have each charged that the replacements of the board members were retaliation for their votes in support of Kegebein. Lookout requested any records regarding the replacement of the board members from CDFA, in accordance to the California Public Records Act. After repeated requests, a CDFA spokesman said via email, “CDFA’S Legal Office has determined that there are no records responsive to your request for documentation.”

Tuesday’s meeting is set for 1:30 p.m. at the Fine Arts Building at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. It’s also accessible by Zoom.

Latest Stories


Be the first to know all the big, breaking news in Santa Cruz. Sign up to get Lookout alerts sent straight to your phone here or below.