The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Jack King 

County votes down Nevada trip for Fair Board, spouses


County Commissioners turned down a request Tuesday by the Curry County Fair Board to send three board members and their wives on an all-expenses-paid trip to the International Association of Fairs and Events convention in Las Vegas, Nev., on Dec. 1-4.

Commissioners Kathrynn Tate and Albin Smith voted to approve the request, but Commissioners Tim Ashley, Pete Hulder and Ed Perales voted against it.

County Manager Geneva Cooper told the commissioners the board members proposed to look into entertainment possibilities and equipment providers while attending the convention. The trip would have been paid for out of proceeds from the Curry County Fair, she said.

But Ashley, Hulder and Perales said it bothered them that the proposal included board members’ spouses and that it set no spending limit for the trip.

The fair board is a county agency and fair board members are elected to their positions. In no other county entity would the county pay for spouses to attend a convention, the commissioners said.

Smith said fair board members have “always done things this way,” but Perales said the commission is re-examining several fair board financial practices.

Approving the trip would be wrong, he said, “because it’s wrong to use taxpayer money to pay for fun in the sun.”

Cooper said the county is in the process of renegotiating its contract with the fair board because, during the county’s annual audit, the auditor noted the board made a number of purchases without prior approval from the commission. Because the fair board is a county agency, technically, all money from the fair is county money, she said.

The fair board members, and wives, who would have gone on the trip are Gordon Morris, and his wife Pat; Jamie Widner, and wife Robin; and Lyle Hutchins, and wife Rita.

Hutchins said this would have been his first time attending an IAFE convention.

“But I know in the past they’ve gone to the (convention) in Houston and it’s always been paid. As far as their turning down the request, I don’t really understand their reasoning,” he said.

Morris and Widner could not be reached for comment.

Fair Board President Buddy Vaughn said Wednesday he could not comment on the commission’s decision until he got more details about their reasoning.

“It sounds like if we said the spouses wouldn’t go we’d be alright. ‘All expenses paid’ means ‘travel, meals and lodging,’ but if they think it means ‘anything goes,’ I can see that that would be a problem,” he said.

The commission on Thursday also approved a contract with Global Entertainment Corp. of Phoenix, Ariz., in connection with the proposed county special events center. The commission approved a fee of “up to” $20,000. County Attorney Stephen Doerr said he and Cooper would try to negotiate a three-part contract with Global Entertainment Corp., under which the company would develop a business plan for the special events center for less than $20,000.

The company might perform other services, such as developing a conceptual design of the inside of the special events center, Doerr said.

A county special events center committee is still developing, and has not yet issued, criteria for an events center manager, commissioners said.


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