Audit: KC Fair ‘gross mismanagement’ of tax dollars ‘unchecked for years’

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Officials with the Kern County Fair mismanaged hundreds of thousands of tax dollars for years, according to a state audit that did not mention the fair by name.

Sources confirmed with 17 News Wednesday that the unnamed fair is in fact the Kern County Fair, noting investigators with the California State Auditor’s Office interviewed employees about mismanagement before releasing the report’s finding in August.

Tax dollars help fund county fairs across the state, according to the audit, including the Kern County Fair. The 27-page document titled “Gross Mismanagement Led to the Misuse of State Resources and Multiple Violations of State Laws,” says officials in charge of this unnamed fair spent thousands of your tax dollars on lavish dinners and alcohol, and illegal out-of-state trips, and that’s not all.

“The chief executive officer (CEO) and the maintenance supervisor of one district agricultural association (association) allowed—and often participated in—the gross mismanagement of state resources.

Auditor of the State of California

“The chief executive officer (CEO) and the maintenance supervisor of one district agricultural association (association) allowed—and often participated in—the gross mismanagement of state resources,” the audit said.

“Moreover, the CEO grossly mismanaged the association’s funds and did not put into place critical internal controls to prevent inappropriate and excessive travel‑related purchases, unnecessary charges for interest and late fees, and a waste of state funds,” the document continued.

The misused funds include:

  • $132,584 of credit card purchases for which the association had no supporting receipts.
  • $130,396 of individual credit card purchases exceeding $100 for which the CEO did not sign pre-approved purchase orders.
  • $30,048 for excessive and illegal out‑of‑state travel expenses.
  • $14,170 of credit card purchases for which the association did not have itemized receipts to verify that they were for legitimate, business‑related expenses.
  • $5,859 for airline tickets that employees purchased on their cal‑cards, even though state policy prohibits the use of cal‑cards for travel‑related purchases.
  • $5,188 for late fees and interest because the association did not pay its credit card bills on time.
  • $1,986 of wasteful tips that far exceeded the maximum allowable reimbursement rate.
  • $1,259 for inappropriate purchases of alcohol.

“Not only did the employees use their association credit cards to make illegal travel purchases, but when traveling, they also often used their association credit cards to pay for lavish meals that included alcohol,” the audit wrote, adding employees used state money for a $125 lobster meal even though the maximum allowable travel reimbursement for dinner is $23.

“Overall, each of the entities or people who were responsible for overseeing the operation and management of the association failed in those duties, which allowed the association’s gross mismanagement to continue unchecked for years,” the audit said.

The audit recommended the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) “consider exercising its authority to assume any or all rights, duties, and powers of the board of the association,” that overlooks the fair, but it remains unclear if such an oversight will take place.

KGET reached out to the CEO and the chair of the board of the Kern County Fair, but both directed 17 News to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The C.D.F.A would not comment further on the audit.

You can read the full report by clicking here.

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