WARSAW — Kosciusko County Fair Board members struck a defensive tone against criticisms from a group who thinks a focus on reviving motorized racing is a bad idea.
An advertising campaign supplemented with a website, WarsawFairFacts.com and a Facebook page, contend that financial records dating back several decades show that motorized racing — when it was allowed — was never a huge money maker for the fairgrounds.
The current fair board is in a legal battle with nearby homeowners who are seeking to have a judge reaffirm a 29-year-old agreement prohibiting motorized racing because of the noise it creates. The board has said the revival of racing is a key to the future of the fairgrounds.
The fair board gradually began resurrecting racing in the past few years until the judge ordered an injunction against it in 2018 while the court case is decided.
The people behind WarsawFairFacts.com say they are not directly affiliated with plaintiffs in the lawsuit. A letter to the community released last week echoes the concerns voiced in the campaign and was signed by nine people, including three past fair board presidents.
I think it’s pretty bad when we have ex-directors … trying to drag everything through the mud that is not correct,” said Randy Shepherd, who serves as 1st Vice President of the fair board and made the comments at the end of a board meeting Monday night, June 10.
“They don’t have the gumption to come right in here and tell us what their real thoughts are,” he said.
The letter contends the fair board is off-base in its belief that racing is a key to the fairgrounds’ survival and uses IRS forms from the fair board to back up its claims. The forms suggest that revenues from the fair are a small portion of the fair board’s annual budget.
“Most of the facts are not true. There is some truth to some of them, but most of them are false statements,” Shepherd said.
Board President Kevin Harris questioned how they could get such details.
“Our 990s are not that specific,” Harris said.
Fair leaders contend the court case is a necessary fight, in part because of a second aspect in the suit seeks to declare activities at the fairgrounds as a nuisance, a move that could jeopardize much of the activities at the fairgrounds.
“If they can win this case … then that’s pretty much going to take care of the fair or any other event on the grounds. So we have to battle this thing for our mere existence of the fairgrounds, and people don’t understand that,” Shepherd said.
The opposition group also argues that the fair board has rejected fair association memberships from certain people to limit decision making to those who are like-minded.
Those people have violated their fiduciary responsibilities to the association, said Sheal Dirck, treasurer for the fair board.
Harris said memberships have been rejected for people who have actively participated with the plaintiffs or worked against the fair board.
“As soon as you start working against the association outside of the association with other people, then you’re in violation to your legal duties to that association and that’s basically what these people are doing,” Harris said. “If they have a problem with the way they are running the fairgrounds then they need to come to a meeting and say that.”
Officials expressed hope that a judge will rule in favor of a request for summary judgment in a hearing in Kosciusko Circuit Court on Friday, June 14.
I’m hoping we can we win that on the 14th and we can keep moving forward,” said Shepherd said.
At the end of the meeting, the board announced they would meet immediately afterward in a closed session. The topic of that meeting was not announced.