Most of the Kosciusko County Fair Board of Director’s discussion at its meeting Monday centered around the upcoming fair.

However, its last 12 minutes focused on ads that have been running in the Times-Union questioning the fair’s finances and public statements. The ads are borne out of the lawsuit between the fair board and a handful of property owners along the lake. The ads are sponsored by WarsawFairFacts.com, also known as FairAccuracy.com.

On the ads’ assertions, Fair Board First Vice President Randy Shepherd said, “I think it’s wonderful that they’re giving us all this free advertising. Most of the facts are not true. There is some truth to some of them, but most of them are false statements.”

He said that along with the Kosciusko Fair Board, “Elkhart County is really upset with some of the stuff that they’re dragging” them into. “We’ve been contacted by Elkhart County and asked if (we) cared if they did a stop-and-desist to them.”

Shepherd continued, “I think it’s pretty bad when we have ex-directors out there, association members, that are trying to drag everything through the mud that is not correct. They don’t have the gumption to come in here and tell us what they’re real thoughts are.”

Past Board President Mike Loher was in attendance at the meeting and Shepherd recognized him for coming to the meetings to complain. Then Shepherd said he thought Loher was probably behind “the whole thing.”

Loher was one of nine past board members who wrote a guest column about the lawsuit, which was published in the Times-Union Thursday. After the meeting, Loher declined to comment on the record about Shepherd’s remarks.

Shepherd said it was a little upsetting to be volunteers on the board and “go through everything that we’re going through.”

A hearing on the summary judgment on the lawsuit is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday in Elkhart County. Shepherd said he is hoping the fair can win that and keep moving forward.

As for specific inaccuracies in the ads, Shepherd said, “A lot of the financials are not accurate.”

Board President Kevin Harris said, “I don’t think they vetted their documents very well. I don’t know where they got their documents. But some of the information that they have, I’m not sure how they could get that information. They could glean it off a (form) 990, but our 990s are not that specific.”

A form 990 is a nonprofit organization tax report.

Shepherd said that what really upsetted him was, “They’re making this whole thing about racing. And this whole thing is not about racing. The nuisance count against us is probably bigger than what the racing is. And they’re upset with the racing overall, and they’re saying we don’t make anything off racing. But if we make $8-$12,000 on one event, that’s a lot of money for us.”

He said since the fair board has to have $8,000 to $10,000 a month to operate, that $8-$12,000 a month would be a big increase for it. “It’s a great value for us,” he said.

The Fair Board has the Mexican rodeos, which has helped it because of the rentals it gets from those events, Shepherd said.

“But it’s not all about racing. They’re not looking at the big picture here. The nuisance charge against this fairgrounds and the noise and the pollution and so forth that they’re saying we’re in violation of, is bigger than what the racing is. So if they can win this case, or win their battles, then that’s pretty much going to take care of the fair or any other event we have out here on the grounds. So we have to battle this thing for our mere existence of the fairgrounds, and people don’t understand that,” Shepherd said.

There is an allegation that the Fair was not allowing anyone involved in the lawsuit against the Fair Board to be members of the Fair Association.

Shepherd said it’s about fiduciary responsibilities.

Sheal Dirck, Fair treasurer, said, “When we have a question about somebody that is joining, we have vetted it with our attorney and he advises us accordingly. The people who are probably not going to be allowed to join the membership are ones that have actively participated in funding the plaintiffs in the case or have been advertising for them or have been working for them.”

He said Chris Cummins, one of the plaintiffs in the case, tried to join the association and the fair’s attorney said “no.”

Harris said that for somebody to be a member of the association, they just have to pay dues. But, he said, they also have a fiduciary duty to support the association.

“If you have a conflict with the way things are being run, then you can bring that up at a board meeting or discuss it with other board members or association members. But as soon as you go outside of that, as soon as you start working against the association, outside of the association with other people, then you’re in violation of your legal duties to that association. And that’s basically what these people are doing,” Harris said.

City Councilman Jerry Frush asked if the biggest problem for the people behind the ads was “the financial aspect that they talk about.” He said the Kosciusko County Historical Society will provide its financial statements to someone who asks for them.

Harris said someone can get a copy of the Fair Board’s form 990 as it’s a matter of public record. Frush asked about the monthly financial statement.

“We don’t hand those out. We don’t hand out the monthly,” Harris said.

“Why not?” Frush asked.

“It’s up to the board to work with the day-to-day operations of the fairgrounds. It’s up to us to keep track of what’s going on here. We don’t publish our monthly financial statements. We just don’t do that,” Harris said.

At the annual Fair Association meeting, he said members get a yearly statement.

“If we were to hand out monthly statements, I doubt anybody can make much sense of them because they don’t know what goes on here. A lot of information on there is event specific, and if you’re not just here all the time and know of the different events that go on and the different things we do ... you might have some questions about that,” Harris said.

Dirck clarified that Fair Association members – not the general public – can get the financials anytime they want, but they don’t make a lot of copies for the Fair Board meetings.

He also said that after the lawsuit is settled, if Cummins – or anyone else involved in it – wants to join the Fair Association, he is more than welcome. Just not while the lawsuit is active.

“Because our first duty is to protect the association,” Dirck said.

A story about the Fair Board’s discussion on the upcoming fair will appear in Wednesday’s edition.