Questions surface over the rides and games at the San Diego County Fair nine weeks before opening to the public after a San Diego County Superior judge issued an injunction Thursday for a single operator to run the games and rides.
Judge Kenneth Medel’s 14-page ruling blocks the contract approved by the 22nd District Agricultural Association (DAA), ruling a rigged bidding process to favor Ray Cammack Shows (RCS). The annual fair in Del Mar is slated to return on June 8 following pandemic-induced closures.
“There is at least the appearance of favoritism, which is contrary to public policy,” Mendel wrote in the ruling.
The Texas-based competitor, Talley Amusements, filed a lawsuit over the contract awarded to RCS on Jan.31, alleging favoritism and bid-rigging during the selection process.
The judge notes that under California’s public contracting laws, an open and competitive bidding process is required to protect taxpayers and the public. Mendel's ruling brings the fair's ability to feature its staple rides and games into question.
Talley Amusements has been a ride operator at the San Diego County Fair for 18 years, according to John Moot, the lawyer for Talley Amusements.
"Even though the fair is relatively close, the judge felt that the public policy at stake was very important, that we couldn't have public contracts that had been rigged and violated the code, and felt that the integrity of the competitive bidding process and the integrity of governmental institutions were at stake," Moot said.
The 22nd DAA released a statement claiming it will determine what impact Mendel’s ruling would have on the fair, and all options on how to proceed will be considered in the following days.
“With fewer than ten 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,” the statement read.
San Diego County Fair transitioned from having several carnival ride vendors to a single operator in 2018 who would be placed in a five-year contract.