A group of frustrated Flathead Valley residents are calling for the resignation of every member of the Flathead County Fair Board, a movement that comes on the heels of the board’s decision to not renew then-Fair Manager Jay Scott’s contract.
A crowd of roughly 100 people gathered at Gardner Auction Service on March 11 to air their grievances and attempt to get organized in their efforts to get Scott reinstated. Gerry Banzet led the charge, asserting that firing Scott was unjust and immoral.
“My suggestion is a new fair board,” Banzet said, eliciting applause from the crowd.
People took turns speaking about their concerns, which included worries about the board’s accountability to the Flathead County Commission, personal agendas, costs to the county and a potential walk-out of fair vendors.
The decision not to renew Scott’s contract came after an unflattering internal audit on the fairgrounds and its staff. The fair board voted to redefine the fair manager’s job description, officially called the Fairgrounds Operations Manager.
The board then voted 3-1 on Feb. 11 not to renew Scott’s contract, a move that caused longtime board member Paul Atkinson to resign. Board member Ted Dykstra Jr. left his seat to become the interim fair manager. The job is still open, with an application deadline on March 31.
At the March 11 meeting, residents worried that the firing was part of a perceived plan to remove Scott and one more step towards selling the fairgrounds.
“What I feel took place was part of a very long list of choreographed moves to do we don’t know what yet,” said former fair board member Terry Fosbery.
Fosbery, who ran the fair’s rodeo committee until he was replaced earlier this year, said nearly every rodeo vendor, from the announcer to the clowns, has pulled his or her contract with the Northwest Montana Fair since the discontinuation of Scott’s contract.
There also may be a movement by food vendors to pull out of the fair, Fosbery said.
While many members voiced their support for Scott, the underlying plan of the meeting was to become an organized group. People donated money for advertisements to publicize their cause and signed a petition to reinstate Scott.
Members of the group had also organized an account at West One Bank called “Support for Jay Scott” to help pay for the group’s activities.
Part of the crowd’s concern was a perceived lack of oversight by the county commissioners on the fair board. Since county commission appoints the board members, the commissioners should have to answer for the board’s actions, several audience members said.
The general consensus by the end of the meeting was to ask the fair board members to resign on their own, and if they don’t to put pressure on the county commissioners to remove them.
There was also a suggestion to disband the board all together and make the commissioners the fairgrounds’ direct governing body.
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