Cascade County Commission votes to dissolve Montana State Fair Advisory Board
Cascade County Commissioners voted unanimously to dissolve the Montana State Fair Advisory Board, which will be replaced by a “resource team,” at their Friday morning meeting.
Seven people spoke out against the dissolution of the Advisory Council, many of whom were members of the Council. No public comments were made during the meeting in favor of disbanding the Advisory Council.
The Montana ExpoPark Advisory Board has been tasked with serving as an advisory board to the county commission and state fair management on matters relating to the operation of the state fairground and the conduct of the annual state fair, according to the county website.
Following: Cascade County ExpoPark Advisory Board to be dissolved and replaced
There have been numerous complaints about conflicts between Expo park staff and the advisory board, with Hall saying they had been reprimanded by staff for speaking to vendors or people involved in events at state fair and that some vendors had been reprimanded for speaking to board members.
This statement was part of the reasons Commissioner Don Ryan, the commission’s liaison with the council, recommended that the council be dissolved.
“I failed to bridge the communication gap,” Ryan said. “I’m not saying at all that this fall is going to the fair advisory board, it is coming to the staff and it is coming to the commission. There are three parties at fault.
He said because the differences could not be resolved that he wanted to support the chance to do something new. He said people told him the move would be considered “political suicide”.
“If I was making all the decisions based on whether I was going to get re-elected or not, you know, you wouldn’t be any kind of public servant you wanted,” Ryan said.
Ryan said the resource team would be made up of “people representing their area of interest or their involvement in the fair, who will be the voice of their group.”
These would include, but are not limited to, cultural / artistic exhibitors; Agricultural exhibitors; food vendors; Commercial sellers; Door operators / Ticket takers; Parking / Traffic management; People with community impact / room / tourism; Security / Persons responsible for security; and entertainment staff.
“I’m really disappointed that you are considering adopting this resolution, because it just means that you are removing the board because you think we have failed,” said former chair of the advisory board, Leanne Hall. “But I think this failure is on the part of the commissioners to work with the citizens of Cascade County.”
Former vice president Cory Thompson accused the commission of restricting board information, such as financial statements on concessions, and said the board was “less than transparent and honest with its responses” to the board.
“I am for a resource team. More experts in their field offering advice for the Montana State Fair is a good thing. This resource team should be added to the Expo Park Advisory Board, ”said Thompson.
Commissioner Joe Briggs told the Tribune that he provided the council with all the financial data he requested and that he provided training to the budget officer on how to read the government’s financial statements, saying that “They always wrongly insist that we withheld the information they requested. It just isn’t broken down into the format they wanted.
He said when challenged at a town hall to produce food and beverage finance, that he said he could but it would take a while and that he “didn’t ‘had no time to do it at the time. “
The advisory board made a series of recommendations regarding running the Montana State Fair at its August 25 meeting, according to minutes provided to the Tribune. These recommendations included implementing emergency safety protocols in the event of inclement weather or an active shooter situation, improving customer service, improving marketing, and improving signage, among others. The minutes of this meeting, provided by the Board, can be viewed here:
A woman said she was speaking on behalf of Lori Cox, who is running for the County Commission in 2022, said Cox claimed the Montana State Fair was a “shell of what it was formerly, “partly saying that the number of participants at the fair had decreased considerably. after 2007, when his mandate ended as marketing director of the fair.
Briggs responded to this claim by saying that the ticket count done by SMG, a venue management group, was largely based on estimates and people would be double counted if they attended fair events like the rodeo or concerts. He said that people who worked at the fair were also included in the number of attendees.
“I was shocked when I found out about this, in the ticket office they were keeping money under the rocks, they didn’t even have cash drawers,” Briggs said. “We started to strictly count tough ticket sales, as it honestly reflects who came there and how many members of the public paid to attend.”
Briggs said it was ironic that when he initially pushed for the change, “the main argument against it was that in the future we would be attacked because of the drop in attendance.”
The Montana ExpoPark director will be responsible for assembling the Resource
“This situation is unfortunate and very unfortunate, but I think it’s the best way forward at the moment,” Briggs said.
Correspondence between the board of directors and the committee at the start of the year regarding finances can be found here:
Nicole Girten is a government watch reporter for the Great Falls Tribune. You can email him at [email protected] To support coverage of Great Falls and Cascade County, subscribe to the Tribune by clicking the “Subscribe” link at the top of the page.