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The 22nd District Agricultural Association stated it was still figuring what this ruling means for the 2022 San Diego County Fair.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association stated it was still figuring what this ruling means for the 2022 San Diego County Fair. Courtesy photo
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Judge halts fairgrounds midway contract for San Diego County Fair

DEL MAR — A judge granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday preventing Ray Cammack Shows from carrying out its midway contract at the 2022 San Diego County Fair, acknowledging there is enough evidence to suggest the contract process was rigged in violation of state public contract code.

The injunction is the latest development in an ongoing lawsuit between the 22nd District Agricultural Association and Talley Amusements, a Texas-based carnival operator alleging corruption, favoritism and bid-rigging during the Fairgrounds’ selection process of a master carnival operator for last year’s county fair, which was ultimately canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Despite the legal battle which began last year, the 22nd DAA granted the midway contract to Ray Cammack Shows on Jan. 31.

John Moot, an attorney representing Talley Amusements, filed a renewed motion for a preliminary injunction, alleging the request for proposal, or RFP, was altered from the previous year to include minimum experience and qualifications that could only be met by Ray Cammack Shows.

In his ruling, Judge Kenneth J. Medel stated that while the court has not determined for certain the request for proposal for this year’s county fair was created specifically to benefit Ray Cammack Shows, there is enough evidence to grant the injunction.

“With respect to RFP 21-03, there is a probability of prevailing on the claim that the bid was tailored specifically for one bidder,” Medel wrote. “There is at least the appearance of favoritism which is contrary to public policy.”

The 22nd DAA released a statement Tuesday following the ruling, stating they are “working to determine what this means for the 2022 fair,” which is scheduled to begin June 8 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“We are very concerned by some of the contentions upon which the Court’s ruling is apparently based, which have not been proven,” the 22nd DAA’s statement reads. “With fewer than 10 weeks before the start of the fair, the 22nd DAA is committed to doing everything it can to save this beloved summer ritual that is enjoyed by 1.5 million San Diegans and Californians. Fair officials are considering all options and hope to make a determination about how to proceed in the coming days.”

Ray Cammack Shows was awarded a five-year contract, worth approximately $80 million and granted control of 100% of the games, rides and food concessions in the carnival portion, or midway, of the fair.

According to Moot, the injunction does not prevent the fairgrounds from operating a new midway contract with a different carnival operator for the fair or operating a joint contract with Ray Cammack Shows and another midway operator. The injunction also will not apply to the next four years of their contract.

Medel said he weighed the potential harm of eliminating the 22nd DAA’s carnival operator two months before the fair against the harm of denying Talley Amusements a fair and competitive bidding process in making his decision.

The judge acknowledged that Katie Mueller, the fairground’s chief operating officer, had shared that “there is no time left to issue a new RFP, solicit bidders, score, and resolve any protests associated with a new RFP for a Master Carnival Operator; that could take months.”

However, concerns about potential violations of the public bidding process by the 22nd DAA ultimately prevailed in his ruling.
“An injunction functions as a tool to uphold the safeguards to public bidding to prevent bias and arbitrary factors influencing bid selection,” Medel wrote. “The integrity of the public bidding process as well as the integrity of governing institutions themselves require preliminary injunctive relief.”
Medel also determined that while the injunction would have an impact on Ray Cammack Shows, the company was not an indispensable party in the case, since the alleged conduct by the 22nd DAA preceded the award of their contract for the 2022 County Fair.
A representative with Ray Cammack Shows said Wednesday the company is still determining what the injunction means for their involvement in this year’s fair.
“RCS is not a party to the lawsuit brought by Talley Amusements against the 22nd DAA, and we have not been involved in the case. We are in the process of reviewing the court’s preliminary injunction order and assessing its effect,” spokeswoman Shelley Liggit said.
This story has been updated to include comments from Ray Cammack Shows.

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