By Marlena Chavira-Medford
The city of Del Mar is still aiming to purchase the fairgrounds, only now it will be navigating those negotiations with someone new in the driver’s seat.
Del Mar Councilman Carl Hilliard announced Jan. 24 that he is stepping down from his seat on the fairgrounds subcommittee, which has been overseeing negotiations involving the potential purchase of the property.
Hilliard is a horseman, which he said had been drawing some negative attention lately because there are other horsemen involved in this deal. To avoid claims of any conflict of interest, Hilliard said he decided to step back from negotiations.
“Unfortunately, I’ve become the target of opposition based on my horse ownership,” he said. “There is no conflict of interest on my part, but it’s important that this issue not cloud our effort going forward. It is important to focus on accomplishing the city’s goals, not on the [people] involved.”
“It’s very unfortunate that we get to this point here, where people seem to want to throw mud,” said Councilman Mark Filanc, who has worked closely with Hilliard on the fairgrounds subcommittee for the past several months. “[Hilliard] always works with the upmost integrity on everything he does. Not only the integrity, but the experience and intelligence he brings to the table will sorely be missed in these negotiations.”
Mayor Don Mosier thanked Hilliard for his service thus far, and volunteered to replace him on that subcommittee, although that formal action is expected to happen at the next council meeting on Feb. 7.
“I do want to recognize that you brought the horsemen to the table at a critical junction, and your knowledge of the horseracing industry was critical to putting this whole deal together,” Mosier said.
Hilliard also said that there is a new purposed governance plan for the fairgrounds, which is also expected to go public at the Feb. 7 council meeting. Though he remained tight-lipped about details, he said the new model would be “based on a public trust indenture” and that it would answer questions and address concerns about what would happen to the fairgrounds and racetrack in the future, should Del Mar become the owner.