Friday, December 08, 2023

County staff, fair board finally find middle ground

Staff Writer | November 9, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — After months of turmoil between Bonner County staff and Bonner County Fair Board members, calm waters seem to be on the horizon as a seemingly successful fair board meeting brought the two entities back together.

On Oct. 20, the fair board met with Michael Rosedale, Bonner County clerk; Clorrisa Koster, Bonner County treasurer, and Bonner County County commissioners, to discuss management of the Bonner County Fairgrounds and reach agreement on how to move forward. 

For the past several months, the two sides have disagreed over how much control the county had over the fair board and what that meant in terms of funding and annual audits. In August, commissioners voted to dismantle the memorandum of understanding between the county and the fair board after they alleged the board was not complying with the agreement’s guidelines.

While the fair board had 60 days following the dismantlement to respond to commissioners on how to move forward, the county heard nothing but radio silence until just a few weeks before the deadline. In that time, the fair board issued a press release claiming they have always been under the county’s direction, and therefore were not responsible for their own audits. In the press release, the fair board also alleged the commissioners’ as well as Rosedale’s mismanagement of the fair were to blame for the alleged fraud that occurred in 2022.

A request for judicial review was also filed during those 60 days by Rosedale after the fair board did not respond in a timely manner to two public records requests that he had submitted in August. However, that request was dismissed by a Kootenai County judge in October, rendering those public records requests moot.

When it seemed like all hope was lost of the two entities working together peacefully once again, the October fair board meeting seemed to repair the damage that had been done over the summer.

“It was a productive meeting,” said a press release issued by the fair board. 

In the agreement, all parties committed to dissolve the existing MOU between the fair board and the county commissioners as well as support an external audit for the fairgrounds' finances, [including] operating expenses. The agreement also secures better access to county resources for fairground employees and appoints Bill Wilson from the Bonner County Prosecutor's Office to represent the fair board.

In the agreement, released by the fair board Wednesday, the fair board will now report to the entire Board of County Commissioners, rather than a single “liaison” and all sides will work together to streamline fairgrounds banking and auditing procedures so they may be incorporated into the county's financial statements.

“[All parties will] maintain full and open lines of communication for reports of all types, just as with other departments within the county and without the need to make formal requests,” the agreement stated.

In addition to the fair board, Rosedale and Koster also signed the press release. All involved parties said they were excited to provide the public with the best possible experience at the fairgrounds in the future.

“We … are committed to working together to accomplish that goal,” officials said in the press release.

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