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By Andrea Domaskin, Published January 18 2006

Cass agrees to fund fair

Cass County commissioners want to know how records at the Red River Valley Fair wound up missing or destroyed.

That was one question they asked fair President Kyle Anderson on Tuesday in a largely cordial discussion before agreeing to give the group $104,400.

Commissioners also asked for a written report of the fair’s efforts to continue fixing its finances in the wake of an audit report that exposed poor cash handling practices and inadequate records.

“Is this something where you just show up and they’re all gone?” Commissioner Ken Pawluk asked of the records.

Anderson said fair officials know who destroyed the records, but he didn’t tell commissioners who. He said the fair board trusted its employees, at least until last year’s fair went poorly despite good weather.

“I know I made the statement that anybody who paid gate admission got ripped off,” he said.

Anderson said the board knew ahead of time what to expect from both an independent performance review and an audit report.

He said the board pushed to have the complete audit even though one accounting firm didn’t think it was necessary. The board now plans to have fair finances thoroughly audited regularly, he said.

The board fired manager Bruce Olson in December, three weeks after the independent performance review found a need for financial and employee accountability. Olson is now suing the fair board.

Anderson said the fair already made many changes – including some recommended in the audit report and performance review – and continues to work on others.

Most of the fair’s accounting woes are in entertainment and racing, he said.

“When you have the same race car driver that happens to take second, third and fourth place, you know something’s fishy,” Anderson said.

Earlier this month, Cass County Sheriff Don Rudnick – also a fair board member – asked the state to investigate possible overpayment of some entertainer contracts.

The fair association has changed entertainment booking firms, to the Minneapolis-based Hoffman Talent Agency, Anderson said. He couldn’t remember the name of the other agency.

It also now requires that all expenditures be approved by two of the executive committee’s four members. The committee includes the fair president, vice president, secretary/treasurer and a past president.

The fair has re-written or updated some policy manuals, though they haven’t yet been approved by the board, Anderson said.

“There are still more things as we follow up on the consultant and auditor’s reports,” Anderson said.

He said the fair board is looking forward to the upcoming races, fair and farm show at the fairgrounds.

“There’s just so many things coming up that we’re excited about,” Anderson said.

Anderson noted that the fair and county have had a close relationship for years. Along with Rudnick’s involvement with the fair, the Sheriff’s Department provides security at events.

Two county commissioners – Scott Wagner and Robyn Sorum – are members of the fair association.

Wagner, who initially sought the discussion with the fair association, said it was important because the fair is one of just a few outside organizations the county helps fund.

Anderson said the $104,400 it will receive from the county is about 4 percent of its total budget.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Andrea Domaskin at (701) 241-5556