ONTARIO – The Malheur County Fair Board is set to meet Monday, June 5, to kickstart an effort to find a new fairgrounds manager and develop an operational plan for the future.
The meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. at the fair office, comes just two weeks after the board fired former fairgrounds manager Dawnita Haueter and the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into “discrepancies in bookkeeping” at the fairgrounds. Haueter was placed on administrative leave in early May.
Dan Joyce, Malheur County judge, said Haueter was terminated because she “did not fulfill or live up to the obligations of her contract.”
Fair board members have remained silent regarding any specific details about Haueter’s termination or the sheriff’s investigation.
Travis Johnson, Malheur County sheriff, declined to release any information on the matter because it is under investigation.
Fair board co-chair Helen Thomas said the group wants to fill the fair manager slot as fast as possible and board members need to review the current fair manager job description.
“That’s the main issue, getting a fair manager. That will be almost impossible before the fair but we will work on it,” said Thomas Wednesday, May 31.
The fair is scheduled for Aug. 1-Aug. 5.
Right now, she said, there is no full-time caretaker at the fairgrounds.
“Can’t afford one,” she said.
Thomas said Haueter’s duties consisted of multiple roles at the fairgrounds, including some caretaking duties and was “almost like a 24/7 job.”
“She did it all. When I say she did it all, not only did she run the fair and book acts, sometimes she was there on weekends if we had a building that had parties in them and she did the bookkeeping end of it. I don’t think we realized what the fair manager does,” said Thomas.
Now, said Thomas, board members and volunteers have stepped up to fill some of the operational gaps. She said that Dave Tschida, board co-chair, is handling outside maintenance for now.
Thomas said fair board members Leanna Elguezabal and Jen Hall are helping in the fair office.
“We’re scrambling but we will make it. We’ve got good volunteers so I hope people come and enjoy themselves and not think we won’t have things going on because we will,” said Thomas.
Haueter, 53, stepped into the fairgrounds manager position in December 2021. Haueter was paid about $45,000 a year, according to the county.
The fair board is an independent entity that operates from state money funneled into the county’s Fair Fund. The county owns the fairgrounds property and the board is accountable to the Malheur County Court regarding operations and maintenance.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
HOW TO SUBSCRIBE – The Malheur Enterprise delivers quality local journalism – fair and accurate. You can read it any hour, any day with a digital subscription. Read it on your phone, your Tablet, your home computer. Click subscribe – $7.50 a month.