By: James Pruitt
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
The Williams County Fair Board severed its ties to the Fair Foundation in a series of swift actions Aug. 18.
The move brings to a close a tumultuous year in which relationships had become strained at best. Next steps could include legal action on the part of the Foundation to recover equipment it says it owns.
The board rejected the Foundation’s request to retake control of the kitchen at the Thaman Building, since it was “making too much money now.”
Foundation President John McDonald asked for a clarification on the motion, since his group believes it owns much of the equipment in the kitchen (“Everything not attached to the wall in there.”) and wants access to it.
If the Fair Board believes it owns the equipment, Foundation member Bob Crowe said they need to have it listed on inventory sheets and have receipts.
McDonald asked Page if the board was confiscating the equipment or denying the Foundation access to it.
“I am not denying you anything, but you are not getting a key,” Page said. “I am not going to deny you access, you get a hold of one of us, we’ll let you in there.”
Page told the Foundation to provide a list of the equipment it says it owns and he will give it to the commissioners and let them decide the matter. McDonald said he did not agree with that answer and the foundation will deal with it.
The foundation requested its deposits made on the kitchen for its fish fry events be returned. The total was around $450, McDonald said.
The Fair Board rejected that request as well on the basis of breach of contract, because while the rental was for one day, the Foundation was occupying the kitchen for more than the allotted time. With all other renters, such an action would be reason for the renter to lose the deposit.
The Foundation operated under a gentleman’s agreement that had the fair board not cash the check and move the deposit to the next event, McDonald said.
Page read a statement that the Foundation has moved from an organization that raised money for a new grandstand and other buildings to one that operates in open hostility to Fair Board. He cited efforts by the Foundation to talk people from supporting a reverse raffle last January to now voting to take legal action against the Fair Board.
When Page asked for a motion to sever ties with the Foundation as a fundraising entity, the board responded quickly to support his request.
For Page, it is time for the fair to move on without the foundation. The two sides have been talking for months to resolve several disagreements but to no avail.
“Negotiations broke down,” Page said. “I couldn’t do anything; I’m done. I am not going to argue anymore.”
The Foundation went to the Williams County Commissioners in May seeking redress of its grievances, but to no avail. Mediation was proposed, but the idea went nowhere. The commissioners sent a memorandum to both sides specifying what property belonged to whom and Page said that should settle the matter.
After the vote to sever, the Foundation members in attendance left en mass. For them, the only answer to consult an attorney about a legal remedy.
The letter Page wrote told a different view of events than McDonald has. The mediation proposal was shot down by a commissioner, who felt it was not necessary.
“Everything he said was skewed,” McDonald said. “We have to hire an attorney to get our equipment back.”
The Foundation does not exist to strictly fund raise for the fair, McDonald said. It exists to raise money for all sorts of agricultural endeavors, including 4-H and Camp Palmer.
“The Fair Board has the idea all the money goes to (them),” McDonald said.
According to founding documents for the Foundation and in the state auditor’s report for 2005-6, the organization’s purpose is to raise money for fair building projects.
“The purpose of the Williams County Fair Foundation is to assume mortgages on County fairgrounds buildings and raise money to pay them off. The Williams County Fair Foundation shall have the power to do everything and anything reasonably and lawfully necessary, proper, suitable or convenient for the achievement of the foregoing statement of purpose, including the power to raise, receive, manage and distribute funds and property of every kind and nature exclusively for the benefit of the Society, thereby promoting and supporting the Society.”
James Pruitt may be reached at