DEL MAR — Mark Arabo has been appointed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom as a director of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, filling a 20-month vacancy and bringing the board back to a full nine members.
Arabo, a businessman and civic leader, was appointed mid-August and formally introduced at the 22nd DAA’s Sept. 12 meeting. This is his second appointment to a state board by Newsom after serving the past four years as a California Workforce Development Board member.
Fairgrounds leaders expressed relief at finally filling the vacancy following nearly two years of waiting for a state appointment.
Last month, just days before Arabo’s appointment, leaders expressed impatience about the effects of the vacancy, including the board’s ability to have a quorum if some members are absent.
“We are grateful that Governor Newsom prioritized filling a vacant seat on the District’s Board of Directors, and we look forward to working closely with Mark Arabo,” said 22nd DAA CEO Carlene Moore. “He joins our esteemed Board of Directors following a very successful 2023 San Diego County Fair and as we continue our comprehensive planning process that will help us build a stronger, more resilient future driven by our community-centric values and mission.”
Arabo said he grew up attending the San Diego County Fair and now takes his children.
“The Fair holds a special place in the hearts of our community members, and I am committed to contributing my experience and love of San Diego to ensure its continued growth and success,” said Arabo. “Being appointed as one of the representatives for this treasured San Diego event feels like a full circle moment for me. I sincerely appreciate Governor Newsom for his continued commitment to our State and the cultural significance that our county fair holds.”
Aside from his business leadership experience, Arabo is known as a prominent figure in San Diego’s immigrant communities and an activist for the Chaldean community. He has served as President and CEO of Refined Management, a multimillion-dollar consulting management and food services firm, since 2015.
Despite his many accolades, he has also faced legal trouble for reported financial mismanagement during his tenure as CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association, representing hundreds of small businesses throughout San Diego County.
In 2017, he was ordered to repay $248,000 in unjustified bonuses and expense payments to the association after being sued by group members.
Superior Court Judge Richard E.L. Strauss said in his ruling that Arabo misused the group’s credit card, lied to obtain illegitimate expense reimbursements and bonuses, oversaw the illegal transfer of over $100,000 from a group foundation, and engaged in tax avoidance regarding personal expenses.
Arabo unsuccessfully tried to appeal the ruling in 2021.
Fairgrounds spokesman Tristan Hallman declined to comment directly on the court case but said the district “enjoyed having” Arabo at his first board meeting. He directed all inquiries regarding the appointment to the Governor’s Office.
“The governor makes all appointments to the 22nd DAA’s Board of Directors. He is the sole authority on the matter,” Hallman said.
Neither Arabo nor Newsom’s office immediately responded to inquiries from The Coast News.