Victory for Orange County Residents in Fairgrounds Case

Pro Bono Cases Matter. Never was that more clear than when Wylie and Ashleigh Aitken helped secure a victory in the long-foughtcase concerning the future of the Orange County Fairgrounds.

On June 7, 2011, a California Court of Appeals held that the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds to Facilities Management West could not go forward.

The Court found two major flaws in the California Department of General Services’ plan to turn over the public land to Facilities Management West. First, the Department failed to provide the Legislature with an explicit comparison between the Fairgrounds’ fair market value and any deal which the Department proposed to make as required by statute. This step would be a prelude to potential legislative intervention. Second, the Court found the entire bidding process flawed in that it lacked any bid protest procedures designed to secure the highest return from a responsible bidder.

Wylie Aitken, who along with Ashleigh Aitken, represented a cadre of public servants headed by State Senator Lou Correa, State Assemblyman Jose Solorio, and fairground preservation advocates, stated that “the decision rightfully places important public land where it belongs – in the hands of all Orange County and state residents.”

The Court found the first flaw to be fatal, voiding the proposed sale and requiring the Department to start all over again, if the Governor so chooses.

While the decision could be appealed to the State Supreme Court, there is no indication yet as to what the State and FMW intend to do, in light of the unanimous opinion of the appellate court.

“To Governor Brown’s credit, in the first page of the State’s brief they made it clear that their continued participation did not signal that further action was advisable as a matter of public policy and that he had continued discretion to prevent the sale,” Wylie Aitken said. He continued by stating that we are hopeful that this “local jewel” will remain with the public.

For more about the pro bono work of Aitken * Aitken * Cohn, please visit the community section of our website.