santa cruz county fair board of directors
The Santa Cruz County Fair Board of Directors met Feb. 28. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE—Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds Board Chair Don Dietrich has resigned his post, and interim Fairgrounds Manager Kelley Ferreira has announced his departure, Board Director Nick Calubaquib confirmed Monday.

Dietrich, who made the announcement to his fellow board members last week, did not return a call for comment. His final day is April 21. 

But in an email to the board, Dietrich said he hopes his departure “will help to heal the anger that everyone’s experiencing at every meeting,” Calubaquib said.

“And he apologizes,” Calubaquib said. “He believed that he’s lost his ability to consider public comment without bias because of all the emotions that have been involved in everything that has gone on over the past several months.”

Ferreira said his role as interim manager always had an expiration date. His last day is May 15.

The departures add yet another chapter in the saga of the Fairgrounds, which began Oct. 4, when the Board fired Manager Dave Kegebein.

That move came after an audit by the California Department of Food and Agriculture showed hundreds of expenditures on a state-issued credit card totaling more than $100,000 were for “various purchases that were personal in nature, unjustified and/or not supported with a receipt or a vendor invoice.”

Roughly $30,000 of these purchases were for fuel for Kegebein’s personal vehicle, the audit shows.

Kegebein handed the board a check for that amount at a later meeting. He says that the fuel for the truck he used for his work at the Fairgrounds.

In the wake of his dismissal, Directors Jody Belgard and Loretta Estrada—the members who dissented in the 7-2 vote—were fired without being given a reason about two weeks later in a phone call from the office of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The board will discuss appointing a new member and hiring a new director at its April 25 meeting.

Board Vice-Chair Stephanie Fontana and Director Tony Campos did not return a call seeking comment.

Calubaquib said he was not surprised to hear the news.

“I mean, there has been so much turmoil with the leadership of the fairgrounds over the past several months,” he says. “With every change there is opportunity. This will hopefully give the opportunity to work on healing and to work on moving forward in a positive way.”

This story will be updated.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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