Del Mar Fairgrounds clarifies furlough confusion

An article published Friday in the San Diego Union-Tribune and something that San Diego Suburban Newspaper Group picked up through a wire service states that Timothy Fennell, CEO of the 22nd District Agricultural Association (Del Mar Fairgrounds) is ignoring Governor Schwarzenegger’s executive order to furlough state employees two days a month.

This is not correct, according to a press release from the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Although the article, based on an e-mail sent to staff by Fennell, has some accuracies, it did not provide the complete picture of the scope and magnitude of Fennell’s efforts with state agencies to accommodate the governor’s furlough plan and at the same time maintain the level of operations at the Fairgrounds.

The 22nd District Agricultural Association is a self-supporting operation that receives no funding from the state, and has no financial impact on the general fund. Even though savings for the district do not affect the state, the Board of Directors of the 22nd DAA and its CEO, Fennell, completely support the governor in his effort to eliminate the budget deficit, in part, by imposing a mandated furlough program for state employees.

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Employees at the state-run Del Mar Fairgrounds are ignoring Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s order to stay home two days a month without pay to save California some cash, it was reported Friday.

Fairgrounds chief executive Tim Fennell notified his employees in a Feb. 4 e-mail that he would not enforce the governor’s furlough order, saying he needs his full staff to operate the facility, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The furloughs, which went into effect this month, affects all state employees and represents a 9.2 percent salary cut for the average worker. Schwarzenegger said it would help bridge the state’s $42 billion deficit.

The Del Mar Fairgrounds employs 175 full-time workers and 200 to 1,800 part-time workers, depending on the event schedule.

In his e-mail, Fennell wrote that “imposing the Furlough Program would negatively impact our ability to host and produce events, resulting in less tax revenue, less jobs and less economic impact to the state,’' the Union-Tribune reported.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture overseas all of the state’s fairgrounds. Department spokesman Mike Jarvis declined to say whether there would be any consequence to Fennell’s decision.