LA Times Hits Los Angeles County Fair On Exec Compensation

POMONA (CelebrityAccess) — A new report by the Los Angeles Times has taken the Los Angeles County Fair Association to task over its generous executive compensation even as the association loses money.

According to The Times, despite heavy public subsidies, the association lost a total of $6.25 million from 2010 through 2013, even while paying its executives with large bonuses and incentive pay during the period.

Tax filings and state records reviewed by The Times, showed that James Henwood Jr., 69, collected nearly $900,000 in total compensation in 2013, far ahead of other fair managers in California, even as the fair association lost $3.4 million.

From 2010 through 2013, Henwood and four members of his executive team collected a combined total of $2.8 million in bonuses and incentive pay, raising their total compensation to $8.75 million for the four-year period.

Originally formed in 1940 to promote the agricultural industry, the tax-exempt fair association has grown to become something akin to a conglomerate, even as it’s and the region's connection to agriculture have faded.

Today, the association controls a number of enterprises, including a hotel and conference center, a catering company and an equipment rental operation. All of these ventures are located on the county-owned fairground, leaving the fair association free from the encumbrances of property taxes while their nonprofit status leaves the association exempt from taxes on most of its income.

"It's so removed from agricultural pursuits that it calls into question whether it qualifies for a tax exemption," Marcus Owens, a Washington attorney who once headed the IRS division on exempt organizations told the Los Angeles Times.

J. Michael Ortiz, who serves as the president of the board of directors of the Fair Association, defended their compensation practices. Ortiz told The Times that the compensation packages were based on performance. According to Ortiz, the fair has done quite well financially under the direction of Henwood.

Ortiz also pointed to the fair's community outreach efforts, such as providing vocational training to students, but he declined to comment to The Times on why the fair would pay performance bonuses to executives for years when the fair lost money. – Staff Writers

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