WARSAW — Kosciusko County Fair Board of Directors got an earful from critics over the proposed changes to its governing bylaws that will be voted upon next week.
Willard Brandt, a former fair association member, came to the Monday, Nov. 11 meeting with Rick Snodgrass, a longtime community leader, who became a fair association member in October.
Along with Mike Loher, another association member, they claimed the proposed changes in the bylaws would allow the board to remove any association member for any reason.
The complaints come as the fair board attempts to appeal a judge’s ruling that reinstated a decades-long ban on motorized racing at the fairgrounds.
“You’re not being fiduciarily sound in spending all this money on these appeals on something that was agreed to years and years and years ago,” Snodgrass told the board.
Randy Shepherd, the First Vice President of the board, pointed out that a nuisance charge in the lawsuit from area residents has not been resolved and could have an impact on other activities at the fairgrounds.
While not mentioning how much the fair board has spent in legal fees, Shepherd compared it to a series of failed concerts a dozen years in downplaying the amount being spent for attorney fees.
Shepherd reiterated his belief that the legal battle has left them “fighting for our existence.”
“We’re doing the best we can do as volunteers to make sure the gates stay open. In order to do that, we need to raise funds,” Shepherd said. “Concerts didn’t make us a damn penny. We lost our ass on the concerts. So what we’re trying to do is to find something to bring in here that families will come and pay a just reward for something we can do and racing was it.”
“It’s not just about racing. It’s about our existence at the fairgrounds. If we roll over and say ‘take it,’ we’re not being fiduciarily responsible to our people,” he said.
But much of the lengthy discussion dealt with proposed changes to the board’s bylaws, which governs how the board operates.
Fair association members will vote Monday, Nov. 18, at the annual membership dinner to approve more than a full page of changes that critics contend will allow the fair board to remove anyone from being a member.
Board members said it is an attempt to clarify the policy.
Board member Shane Checketts said other non-profit groups have similar language in their bylaws and that it is permissible under state law.
Snodgrass contends the move would allow the board to “throw out anybody they want if they don’t like what they say.”
Proposed changes span nearly two pages. New sections detail membership qualifications, stipulations for being in good standing and steps for terminating membership. It reads in part, “The board of directors reserves the right to review any member’s good standing status at any time and to terminate any membership in the association if it is not found that a member no longer qualifies or is in good standing.”
Shepherd said they are not seeking to remove anyone but said the board has a right to remove members who are critical of the board outside of the membership meetings.
“If you want to go outside the association and start badmouthing everything the board or the association is doing, then you’re not upholding your fiduciary responsibilities,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd said the changes are an attempt to clarify the policy.
“We didn’t intend to stir the fire,” he said.
“Well you certainly did,” Snodgrass replied.
Snodgrass and Loher were also critical of the proposed appeals process members can exercise if they have been removed. The appeals committee is made up of representatives of the same people charged with deciding to remove them.
Loher argued that it’s “not logical to file an appeal with the same people who just voted you out.” The comment seemed to gain a measure of support from some board members.
Snodgrass and Brandt expressed an interest in having a list of association members ahead of Monday’s meeting, but the board balked.
There are about 130 association members. Having a list of members would give them a chance to discuss the proposed changes ahead of the vote.
“We can’t do it because we don’t know who they are,” Snodgrass said.
Board President Kevin Harris told them they could talk with members at the meeting. It was also pointed out that there will be time for discussion before the vote.
Monday’s dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Shrine Building. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m.