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Indiana State Fair Board Issues Clarified at Meeting

Indiana State Fair Board Issues Clarified at Meeting
Indiana State Fair Board agrees to general policy, but devil will be in the details.

The issue revolving around the future of the Indiana State Fair Board crystallized at a public meeting of the Board today. The Indiana State Fair Commission met in public following the Board meeting.

Controversy has swirled around the future of the Board and roles of directors on the board. Earlier this year, Ann O'Connor with the Attorney General's office issued a legal opinion saying the Indiana State Fair Board was operating outside the legal guidelines of the Indiana constitution.

Asked at the meeting to clarify, she noted that directors on the board can't also have responsibilities as employees and manage people at the same time. The Indiana Constitution makes such a dual role illegal.

Plan for 2015: Indiana State Fair Board Directors were told at the recent state fair board meeting that they could begin planning for the 2015 fair, pending reassignment to their current roles, which should happen in the near future.

Related: Indiana State Fair Commission Chairman: State Fair Board Will Continue

Some thought the legislature could clear up the issue by opening the statute during the 2015 session that deals with the state fair commission and the state fair board. Even some legislators acknowledge that part of the wording in the statute is vague.

However, O' Connor says it would take a constitutional amendment to allow directors to also manage employees. It's not something the legislature could fix in one session.

Stan Poe, Bargersville, elected chairman of the Indiana State Fair Board at the meeting, explained that the governance policy proposed originally by Commission staff earlier in the year was modified slightly by a task force.

Two paragraphs were added, one stating the importance of the Indiana State Fair Board and directors to the fair.

The Indiana State Fair Board voted down the governance policy at its last meeting. That led to creation of the task force. The policy was approved with the additions this time. However, several Board members were adamant that the handbook spelling out the details of what directors can and can't do must be updated. The Board appointed a new Task Force to prepare changes to the Handbook based upon the new governance policy. The proposed changes are to be brought back to the Indiana State Fair Board for review and action at the November meeting.

Related: Indiana State Fair Uncertainty Drags On Into Fall

When questioned if they could still keep their role as Director and be the face of the department during the fair, O'Connor said that doing so would not violate the law. Cindy Hoye, executive director of the Board and the Commission, answered a direct question from a board member about proceeding with their normal duties of lining up judges by saying they could proceed.

What will be different, O'Connor notes, is that directors will provide input on such things as judges, but staff will take care of contracts and details associated with these matters.

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