LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Some Kentucky State Fair board members raised concerns on Thursday that Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration hasn’t yet extended a contract for the fairgrounds property’s top executive days before it expires.
The fair board unanimously agreed to renew David Beck’s contract in April, but the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet has not signed off on it. Beck is president and CEO of Kentucky Venues, which manages the Kentucky Exposition Center and the downtown Kentucky International Convention Center.
Beck was hired in 2018 during the administration of former Gov. Matt Bevin. His two-year contract ends Tuesday.
“We’re five days away from his contract expiring. We have a very complicated state fair starting in a little over a month,” said board member Ryan Quarles, the state’s Republican agriculture commissioner. “I think it’s very important that the unanimous vote of this body over two months ago be honored.”
The delay is a result of slowdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, said board member Mike Berry, Secretary of the Tourism, Arts & Heritage Cabinet. Berry was appointed by Beshear, a Democrat.
Berry said “COVID-19 has disrupted a lot of things, including the process of approving contracts.” He added that the one-year budget approved by state lawmakers during the pandemic, rather than the standard two-year spending plan, also has complicated the approval.
He said Beck’s extension is being reviewed but acknowledged that the timeframe is “down to four business days.”
“Everyone that I’ve talked to has an intention that by close of business on Tuesday there will be a contract,” Berry said.
A Finance Cabinet spokeswoman said by email Thursday morning she was checking on the status of the contract’s renewal.
Two board members raised concerns that the contract hasn’t been approved even though it has an automatic two-year renewal clause starting July 1. Board member David Williams asked whether “we’re acting in violation of a commitment that’s already been made.”
The nearly 20-minute discussion came at the end of the first fair board meeting chaired by Goshen philanthropist Steve Wilson, whom Beshear appointed to the board and named as chairman. Wilson tried to assuage members’ concerns about Beck’s contract with the state fair looming.
The August fair will have smaller crowds, mask requirements for some fair-goers and reduced hours, according to the plan approved by the Beshear administration.
“We feel confident about the future of his working with us in the near future and through the state fair,” Wilson said, referring to Beck. “So I don’t think it’s something we need to be that concerned about at the moment.”
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