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Cortland/Ithaca

State Fair probe reveals security issues, other flaws

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: State Fair probe reveals security issues, other flaws
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An investigation into the State Fair reveals flaws in its operation. The Inspector General's Office conducted a multifaceted investigation following allegations of misconduct. Those allegations have to do with security and unfair bidding practices with vendors. Iris St. Meran has more.

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- This is the second report that casts the fair in unfavorable light in just over two years. Acting State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott says the findings undermine the proud tradition of the fair.

When it comes to the bidding process, the report said department officials, including former First Deputy Commissioner Robert Haggerty and former Fair Director Daniel O’Hara, conducted an improper Request for Proposal process, giving the only bidder more favorable terms than originally offered.

On a separate contract, officials allowed an electronic ticketing vendor to bid on an RFP and that same vendor assisted Haggerty in preparing the proposal ,which would likely violate the New York State Finance Law.

The Inspector General also assessed the grounds and found security lapses. Two employees were found to be living on the grounds and had storage spaces. One employee lived in the racing stable office, had exotic pet birds on site and enough personal items to fill six horse stalls and a pickup truck. Another employee had a kitchenette with a fridge that had alcoholic beverages, a couch and other items.

According to the investigation, at least one supervisor was aware of this.

The inspector general has made a number of recommendations which include:

  • Review all procurements

  • Train all agency staff on proper procurement procedures and ethics

  • Conduct periodic procurement audits, and thoroughly review State Fair management

  • Ensure implementation of inventory and security improvements

  • Review the conduct of those responsible for the most recent procurement failures, and take appropriate action

The first deputy commissioner was terminated and Director Dan O'Hara was recently replaced. Other staff have been disciplined or don't work for the department of Agriculture and Markets anymore.

We reached out to O'Hara and the current assistant state fair director for comment. They have not returned our calls.

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