Grand Island, NE- The Nebraska State wrapped up their final board meeting of 2019 Friday.
After the resignation of Patrick Kopke, chief of finance and administration for the fair at their November board meeting and restructuring resulting in the reduction of staff by roughly 50%, the board spent much of Friday’s meeting discussing the future.
Executive Director, Lori Cox, said since November staff has been meeting weekly at round table meetings to review AP and AR activity, in an effort to create more financial transparency. Cox said finances will be heavily discussed at these meetings for at least the next 6 months.
The state fair came under fire after the November meeting after their former chief of finance and administration alleged the state fair was one year away from bankruptcy.
The state fair was approved for a $1.1 million dollar line of credit through their banking partners and Cox says it is not their intention to have to use all of that. “Our hope is to come far less than having to obtain those resources” said Cox.
As far as addressing the personnel changes the state fair has restructured what was the livestock department to encompass all things agriculture both on education and exhibitor experience. With that they are looking to hire an Agriculture Director. Cox says they are hoping to fill that position within the next 30 days but they will continue until they find the right fit.
“Two points that are really important for people to understand from a fair management perspective is where do we sit in relationship to our mission? Our mission is agriculture.” said Cox. “We want to be better at educating the public about what our livelihood, that feeds the world, looks like.”
Additionally, the state fair has initiated a FAQ on their website. Cox said the idea was brought up a year ago and with the emergence of social media the need for transparency is greater and they’re hoping this will address some of the misinformation they say has been shared along as be used as a help guide.
Discussion around reviewing the board’s bylaws and code of conduct was brought up and board chair Chris Kircher said there’s been discussion on a need for it to reflect the kind of corporate governance they want it to.
“One of the things missing from it is clarifying what the purpose of the board is, as an oversight board and being a little bit more specific on what that looks like.” said Kircher. “Another thing that would be good to revise and add is what happens if a board member doesn’t abide by the code of conduct.” Kircher said he’s been working with the state fair board’s attorney on the matter.
Just before the meeting adjourned it was noted that the they had received a grant from the Aksarben Foundation to create a welding camp that will take place during the 2020 state fair. The goal behind the camp is to encourage youth to learn more about welding as a career.
Meanwhile, media outlets are reporting that Legacy Communications, a Grand Island based radio station group, has filed a lawsuit against the Nebraska State Fair alleging violations of the Nebraska Open Meetings Act and Public Records law.