Amid more chaos, Santa Cruz County Fair board meets in closed session

The Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Its leadership void growing and with five months to prepare for the fairgrounds’ big annual event, the Santa Cruz County Fair’s board was set to meet Tuesday evening to consider appointing still more interim leadership.

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The increasingly bizarre saga of the Santa Cruz County Fair could take another unanticipated turn Tuesday evening. At 7 p.m., the fair’s state-appointed board of directors will hold a special meeting, by Zoom only. That meeting has been announced as closed to the public, with the agenda citing the discussion of personnel or legal matters.

The board is, however, compelled to report what was decided behind closed doors in an open session afterward. When it will do that is unclear as of publication time.

This special meeting of the board comes on the heels of an abrupt cancellation of the regularly scheduled monthly board meeting, which had been scheduled to take place Tuesday afternoon in person at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. It also follows the resignations of board chair Don Dietrich and interim fair director Kelley Ferreira. Indeed, the agenda of the special meeting states the purpose of it is to appoint a new interim director.

Board member Michael Pruger, who has been acting as board chair since Dietrich’s resignation, said of the meeting, “We will have an open discussion with [state officials in] Sacramento, and I can’t say whether we’ll name an interim director. It is our hope that we will.”

As to why the regularly scheduled board meeting was cancelled, Pruger said it was a response to the sudden vacuum at the top of the fair’s leadership. “Things aren’t getting done that need to get done,” he said. “And it was not going to be fair to the community to have a meeting just for the sake of having a meeting. We want to be able to provide what the community expects of us. And I don’t believe we could have done that today.”

The crisis in leadership at the fair dates back to October, when the board fired longtime fair CEO Dave Kegebein after a state audit found violations of regulations regarding accounting and expenditures of fair revenues. Since then, many vocal supporters of Kegebein, and Kegebein himself, have been regular visitors to monthly board meetings, often denouncing the board and its actions.

Acting board chair Pruger said that the turnover at the fair’s leadership level should have no bearing on the county fair scheduled for September. “We are going to have a fair. The community expects us to put on the fair, and we are moving towards having the fair. We expect it to be as good or better than any of the fairs we’ve had in the past.”

Lookout will continue to update this unfolding story and report on what is decided at the special meeting.

Tonight’s special meeting of the fair board can be accessed at 7 p.m. via Zoom:

Previous Santa Cruz County Fair coverage

After the surprising ouster of 11-year CEO Dave Kegebein earlier this month, the two board members who opposed the...


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