Members of the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted during its Aug. 22 regular meeting to unanimously reject the Hernando County Fair Association’s latest proposal to settle litigation allowing the County to recover the cost of repairs to facilities at Lonnie Coburn Park and to make a counteroffer of its own.
Beginning in 2021, Hernando County mounted a series of court actions stemming from complaints ranging from the condition of the buildings at the Fairgrounds to the alleged misuse of more than $60,000 of County-granted funds for the operation of and maintenance of the venue.
Allegations also include those that the Hernando County Fair Association charged 4-H and FFA livestock show participants $10,000 for promising—and subsequently failing—to market their animals for auction and delaying payment to the owners of livestock that were successfully auctioned during the events.
The county sued the Fair Association in December 2021 to enforce a Memorandum of Understanding and Performance Agreement in which the county agreed to convey the title to the Fairgrounds to the Fair Association in 2008 without cost in exchange for the Fair Association’s agreement to redevelop the Fairgrounds at its own expense.
While the county deeded the Fairgrounds to the Fair Association, the Fair Association did not subsequently redevelop the Fairgrounds.
In another case filed on April 8, 2022, the County sought to recover the costs of repairs to the pavilion and bathrooms at Lonnie Coburn Park.
In March, the court referred the litigation for mediation.
During the June 13 meeting of the BOCC, the panel rejected the Fair Association’s proposed mediated settlement that called for county representation on the Fair Association Board and a payment of $10,000 in response to the County’s claim for damages. That proposal would have also resolved the county’s case over the repairs at Lonnie Coburn Park.
On Aug. 2, the Hernando County Fair Association, Inc., proposed a monetary payment of $10,000 to settle the disputed amount in the case relative to repairs at Lonnie Coburn Park.
After a private session to consider the proposed settlement, the BOCC rejected it during its Aug. 22 public meeting. At the same time, Commissioner Brian Hawkins made a motion that the County respond to the Fair Association’s proposal by making a counteroffer of $49,816.11. After Commissioner Jerry Campbell seconded the motion, the BOCC approved it by a vote of 5-0.
The case remains pending.