Fairgrounds Bid Rigging Affecting Horsepark

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Early last June 2021, the 22nd DAA voted to issue an RFP for an independent operator to run Horsepark on a ground lease basis. It took over three months for the RFP to be issued, and after realizing they made a mistake, it was re-issued in December. The RFP was officially awarded in early January.

Based on the deposition of Michael Ceragioli, contracts manager of 13 years for the 22nd DAA, there was essentially no staff left who could write such an RFP around that time. Ceragiolo’s eight person staff had already been laid off due to loss of income due to their covid related shutdowns. He was the last man standing, and he retired early partially because the shenanigans he witnessed in the fairground’s $10M amusement ride bid award.

“Mike, we want you to do … this horse park RFP …” And I said, “I can’t do all that.” “Well, you’re going to have to do it. …” And I was actually kind of pissed off because I didn’t want to have nothing to do with doing any more RFPs with Carlene.

What were the shenanigans that caused Mike Ceragioli to resign early and not work on the horsepark RFP? You can read the details yourself starting on page 38 of Ceragiolo’s deposition (which is honestly fascinating reading), but basically he says the newly appointed CEO of the 22nd DAA, Carlene Moore, changed the bid scoring, twice, after the fact to “award” the contract to RCS instead of Talley Amusements.

In today’s 22nd DAA Board meeting, Adam West, Talley executive, stated that their bid would have given the 22nd DAA $10M more than RCS over the life of the contract. $10M is a lot of money that RCS could hand out as kickbacks should they choose to do so.

The 22nd DAA ended up cancelling that disputed RFP (that’s why we didn’t have any rides this past summer at the Fair), and released a new one for 2022 that was written in such a way that only RCS could bid and win.

So, Horsepark?

Given this possible public corruption backstory, you can understand why the wheels are grinding kinda slow for Horsepark, which is really an afterthought for the 22nd DAA.

Contra some other public reporting, there is still a lot of work to do between the 22nd DAA and the Horsepark operation bid winner, West Palm Events. Luckily, there is no hint of corruption for the Horsepark bid. But West Palms and the 22nd DAA must go through complex negotiations now to hammer out a contract. The bid award was only step one, an actual contract must now be negotiated.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on Horsepark developments and will report on anything significant, and especially if there is foot dragging by the 22nd DAA.

The alleged fairgrounds midway contract corruption isn’t really in my wheel house, as fascinating as it is, but the Union Tribune has been following the case. Here is their article today about the 22nd DAA board meeting and the allegations made in the deposition:

Del Mar Fair contract award scores were changed, retired administrator testifies

Past UT article:

Del Mar Fairgrounds agency sued over withdrawn contract for fair operations

By the way, the 22nd DAA Board today ignored the damning deposition, and voted unanimously to award the 2022 midway contract to RCS.