My telephone rang today at 2:27pm with a message that the Fair Board was having a meeting at 6:00pm at the Fairground. Ummm I thought, they usually hold their meeting on a Thursday night during the week of the Fair. Something was up. The caller said the meeting was open to the public, although Fair shareholders were not invited. I smelt a rat as Founding Father Patrick Henry once said about the closed meeting that produced the Constitution without the Bill of Rights.
So, I grabbed up a notebook, my glasses and a pen and head on toward the Fairground a little after 5 PM. I wanted to get down there early so I could scout out where they were holding their meeting.
The Fairground was pretty much deserted except for two vehicles parked at the Fire Station at the Fairground. I was told that was where the meeting would be, but sometimes things get moved around. Not this time though.
So I go in the Fire Station and hear voices behind the closed door that was marked Private. I knocked and went in. The Fair Board Chairman Alan Hamrick and Fair Manager Bobby Jenks were the only ones there as it was early. I recognized Bobby Jenks from a picture I had seen, but did not recognize Alan Hamrick at first, although I knew him. Coming in from the bright sun into the room that had the lights turned off and an un-shaded window behind Mr. Hamrick, his face was in a shadow. I introduced myself to both and when Mr. Hamrick introduced himself I moved slightly out of the bright light from the window and recognized him.
I stated that I was told about this meeting and was also told that the meeting was open to the public. Mr. Hamrick replied that the meeting was NOT open to the public and no Fair Board meeting was ever open to the public. I requested an exception as the Fair Board was asking for a large amount of taxpayer money. My request was denied and a statement was made that “We can’t control the weather,” like a large infusion of taxpayer money will control the weather. I asked if there was an agenda for the meeting and was told “NO COMMENT.” I asked if the taxpayer money the Fair Board was asking from the County Commissioners was going to be discussed, NO COMMENT. I asked when was the Fair Board going to release their most recent IRS Form 990 (required every year and is a public document), NO COMMENT. I asked what happened to the $1.6 million in Fair Assets that was listed in the last IRS Form 990, NO COMMENT.
In between the NO COMMENTS, Fair Board Chairman Alan Hamrick stated “I am only interested in getting this Fair Started up this year and from now on.” This was repeated over and over in between the NO COMMENTS and my simple but direct questions. Fair Manager Bobby Jenks never said a word during the whole episode although I asked repeatedly “does anybody have a comment.” I did this on purpose to allow Bobby Jenks the opportunity to speak up for himself about the Fair finances and his own conflicts of interest as my research, not yet printed and posted, indicates Bobby Jenks has lots of explaining to do.
Another thing that was interesting is what was NOT said. Nothing was said about the e-coli outbreak in 2012 that was originally listed as a main contributor to the Fair going broke. However, an IRS 990 form shows well over $1 million in Fair accounts at the end of 2012. Apparently the “official story” now coming out of the Fair Board is the rainy weather last year caused the financial crisis for the Fair. They forget that it rained hard for six days during the 2012 Fair. To my knowledge and the cold hard fact that the Fair is always scheduled during the hurricane season, most years the Fair gets it’s share of rain.
I am afraid Fair Board Chairman Alan Hamrick will end up having lots of explaining to do too before the financially broke Fair problems are fully exposed and resolved-which might eventually involve closing the Fair. My impression, especially from his NO COMMENTS and statements that his only interest is starting up the Fair, indicates Alan Hamrick, who I know is personally honest and trustworthy, is over his head in “stuff” that he apparently doesn’t understand. The “it has always been done this way” kind of stuff. Alan Hamrick does not or cannot understand that there is apparently a cancerous tumor growing fast and deep within the Fair Board and Fair shareholders that must be cut out if the Cleveland County Fair is to survive.
I don’t expect Alan Hamrick will last very long as the Fair Board Chairman. He is too honest and trustworthy to continue covering up what is going on for the long term. I am sure he was talked into this situation, as were others before him, by those looking for a cover for their own agendas and purpo$e$.
Stay tuned for my forthcoming article about the Cleveland County Fair being broke, how they got that way and the money that is missing. This article is just the tip of a big iceberg.