Fair board removes two members
Association alleges misallocation of donated funds
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD—The Central Wisconsin State Fair Association has removed two board members who allegedly misallocated funds. A former board president, Gary Bymers, and a former board vice president, Dan McGiveron, were removed from the board during a special board meeting on Oct. 7.
The fair association has received contributions from an anonymous donor’s estate that were earmarked for capital improvements only, said Fair General Manager Adam Fischer.
Fischer said that earlier this year it came to the association’s attention that some of these incoming donations, $65,000 worth, were placed into the fair’s general fund rather than a savings account for capital improvements. The fair association has since returned the funds to the proper account.
The fair association will implement new policies to better regulate the process by which incoming donations are handled.
“We have formed a policy that every time money is granted to us that needs to be used for a specific use, that it will always go into a savings account or some type of separate account. And then if it ever does need to be transferred…three board members would have to sign off on it,” Fischer said.
Fischer said he did not know for sure whether the funds were intentionally misused but that “the board thought it was serious enough that they removed those two members.”
He added that McGiveron and Bymers were not removed solely for the alleged misallocation of funds. There were other issues surrounding the members that fit under the umbrella of conduct unbecoming of a fair board member, Fischer said.
The money in question was donated in installments, with the first installment being $25,000 and the next installment totaling $40,000.
The April 2013 meeting minutes from the Central Wisconsin State Fair Board show that the fair general manager at that time, Heidi Born-Smith, in her manager’s report to the board stated that $40,000 from the private donor would be placed into the fair’s general account. Board member Ed Wagner moved to accept the manager’s report, Tim Heeg seconded the motion, and the motion carried.
Wagner said that at the time he did not know the funds were not supposed to go into the general fund.
“If they were approved, it was on false pretenses,” Wagner said.
In May 2013, according to meeting minutes, then fair board treasurer John Garbisch “reported a checking account balance of $90,805.70,” and, “Included in this balance is the $40,000 received from the (private donor’s) estate and has as of yet to be directed.”
According to the minutes, during the May 2013 meeting a board member suggested that the treasurer’s report not be approved “due to the ongoing investigation of the books.”
In an Oct. 2013 meeting, according to the fair board’s minutes, a motion was offered by board member Andy Keogh and seconded by Marilyn Heiman to withdraw a $25,000 CD to cover “immediate needs,” but it is not clear as to whether this is the same money that was supplied from the donor’s estate. The motion carried.
Fischer said that the normal protocol for the board was to place money preliminarily in the general fund to be transferred into a savings account or CD at a later time.
“When the board put (the donated money) into the general account, they put it into the general account thinking it would go into a savings account,” Fischer said.
Bymers said that the board did approve the allocation of the donated money to the general fund.
“It states in the minutes that the board approved the use of this money,” Bymers said.
“I have no idea what this is all about,” Bymers said of his dismissal. He added that he “totally disagrees” with the characterization of his conduct as unbecoming of a fair board member.
“They asked us to resign. We did not because we had no reason to resign, and they voted us off,” Bymers said.
McGiveron said while he and Bymers have been removed from the board, they were not the only ones who knew about the transfer of these funds, nor were they aware that the funds were to be used solely for capital improvements.
“Everybody knew where the money was going,” McGiveron said. “I was told numerous times, ‘That money is for anything. … It’s a donation to the fair.’”