March 2012 home page

A Tough Row to Plow
Bud Emerson | Klish Way

Tom Chino, appointed to the Fair Board last year, resigned on Feb. 24. Read his full resignation statement here. The loss of this reform proponent marked a sad day for Del Mar and for everyone who supports transparency and accountability for the 22nd DAA.

From: Tom Chino
Subject: Tom Chino Board resignation
Date: February 14, 2012 11:46:31 AM PST

Dear President Day, Board members, staff, and public:

When I was appointed to the Fair Board I looked forward to bringing my background as a full time farmer, and my considerable experience in the California food business, to the benefit of the 22nd District Agricultural Association. I did not come into office with any kind of reform agenda in mind. I only wanted to do my best to promote the agricultural interests of the fair and of the state.

I was, however, taken aback upon assuming office to learn that there was an audit from the California Department of Food and Agriculture documenting repeated serious violations by our district that stretched back to at least 2007, including the improper payment of more than 1/2 million dollars to district employees, the distribution of thousands of dollars of free tickets, concert admissions, free meals, and the like to board members and others without proper record keeping, and often under questionable circumstances. Some of these issues are under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

It was also alarming to me to learn that our CEO had, apparently, authorized payment of more than $30,000 to himself after being told by the CDFA that the payment program was improper.

And, I was further distressed to learn that all this was going on behind closed doors as the district had never made any of these critical audits public. Likewise, I was distressed upon assuming office to learn that the district had a long history of holding private committee meetings of two board members with no public access, no agenda, and no public input. I felt these meetings should be opened to the public.

While I was successful in making the CDFA audits public ( for the first time at my request they were finally released to the public) my efforts to generate follow up by the board failed. My motion to refer the CDFA audit issues back to committee for follow up did not even receive a second.

Likewise, my motion to adopt a board policy calling for all committee meetings to be open to the public, as well as certain meetings with state and federal officials, also died for lack of a second.

The message was clear that this board is not interested in pursuing these issues that I feel must be addressed. Instead of addressing these serious issues some board members embarked on a personal attack on me and my personal attorney implying that I was leaking confidential closed session information about lawsuits in which the district is involved.

I stated on the record at the January meeting when this claim was made that I had never leaked or discussed closed session information with anyone outside of closed session, and that I had never discussed the pending lawsuits with anyone including my personal attorney.

Notwithstanding, some continue to pursue this distraction from the serious issues at hand. To be clear: there has been no leakage by me from closed session, no discussion by me of the lawsuits outside closed session, and there are no documents, email or otherwise, between me and my personal attorney about these subjects because we never discuss them.

It is my personal hope that at some point the Board will pursue the reform agenda that I feel is critical to the long term well being of the district. Under the present circumstances, however, I feel it is best for me to step off the board, and I offer this memo as my resignation effective immediately.

I have been considering my position as a board member and I was finally able to discuss my situation with the governor’s office this morning and they are respecting my decision.

Sincerely, Tom Chino


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