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New lawsuit filed over O.C. fairgrounds

A group of local and state officials seek an injunction to stop sale of the 150-acre venue.

By Kristen SchottPublished: December 13, 2010 02:21 PM

A group of local and state officials have filed a new lawsuit to stop the planned sale of the Orange County fairgrounds. It's the second suit filed in recent weeks.

In this latest action, Sen. Lou Correa, Rep. Jose Solorio, Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board Member Katrina Foley and the Orange County Preservation Society take issue with the fact that no outside appraisal was completed before the Department of General Services sent out a request for proposals, said Carol Chamberlain, a spokeswoman for Solorio.

Additionally, she said the RFP stated that legislative approval was needed after the bid was won, and that by that time the Legislature was out of session.

"Why was there no appraisal done to learn the fair-market value of the property?" said Solorio in a statement. "Why weren't the requirements of the original legislation and the Department of General Services’ (DGS) own bid documents followed? How do we know the bid process was fair when the terms of the deal favor one bidder above all others? This whole bid process has been flawed."

Solorio also recently introduced new legislation that would clarify how fair-market value is established by requiring an outside appraisal of the property. The bill also would address the steps that DGS needs to take to notify the Legislature of the proposed sale, and it would require legislative approval.

"After following this issue for over a year and continually fighting to keep the Orange County fairgrounds under public ownership, I could not sit by and watch the governor, in his rush before leaving office, sell this important asset when there are too many unanswered questions," said Solorio.

The fairgrounds generates about $180 million a year in economic activity, he added. The state awarded the sale to Newport Beach-based Facilities Management West, which submitted a bid for $100 million.

An Orange County Superior Court judge already has placed a temporary restraining order on the sale as a result of another lawsuit filed by American Fairs & Festivals, Tel Phil Enterprises, Advanced Real Estate Services and Jeffery Teller, president of American Fairs and Tel Phil.

That filing claims, among other allegations, that the DGS failed to respond to public records requests regarding the sale and did not obtain legislative approval for the deal required by the terms of the request for proposals.

A hearing is set for Dec. 15.

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