Business & Economy

California is auditing the company that runs the Los Angeles County Fair

File: The Los Angeles County Fair.
File: The Los Angeles County Fair.
stock photo by vmiramontes via Flickr

California state Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez's read that the Los Angeles County Fair Association's CEO/president James Henwood Jr. was making a salary of almost $900,000 — while his nonprofit organization lost money. 

Now, the organization that runs the L.A. County Fair is facing a state audit.

"How is this possible? He's making more money than the president of the United States," said Rodriguez, who represents that area that includes the county fairgrounds.

Rodriguez said that the audit will look at the company's compensation policy, accounting practices, nonprofit status and whether the company used state dollars for their intended purposes.

Rodriguez said the fair received close to $1 million from the state while horse races were hosted there, and his priority is to ensure the money was used properly.

“My whole audit is just focusing on the use of that money — that it was used for what it was supposed to be and not being used for these outrageous salaries and compensation packages,” Rodriguez said.

Eleven members of a legislative committee unanimously voted to go ahead with the audit on Wednesday, Rodriguez said.

An L.A. Times article published in November 2015 scrutinized Henwood's comparably large salary next to other California fair executives. The article also said that the L.A. County Fair Association is a private entity, rather than the fair being run by a public agency like most other county fairs.

Not only does the the L.A. County Fair Association run the yearly fair, it also operates a hotel and conference center, two restaurants and an equipment rental company.

A written statement to KPCC from Michelle DeMott, L.A. County Fair's vice president of branding and knowledge management, said that unlike other fair executives, Henwood is faced with maximizing year-round revenue at its 500-acre campus. 

"The compensation Mr. Henwood and LACFA's executive team receives in no way affects the bottom-line payment that goes back to the County for the Fairplex property — property which, by the way, LACFA deeded to the County for $1 several decades ago," DeMott's written statement said.

The L.A. County Fair Association says it will cooperate with the audit. Rodriguez said the audit will begin in March and will be completed within six months.

This story has been updated.