Tituses Get $150K in Fair Board Settlement


Caroline and Stuart Titus. - FILE
  • File
  • Caroline and Stuart Titus.
The Humboldt County Fair Association has settled a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by its former General Manager, Stuart Titus, and his wife Caroline, agreeing to pay the couple $150,000.

Describing the lawsuit as “all consuming,” Caroline Titus told the Journal that she and Stuart are happy to put it behind them and move forward. The couple owns the Ferndale Enterprise, in which Caroline, as its publisher and editor, has covered the lawsuit relentlessly.

“I feel like we had a principle — the First Amendment — and we exposed them throughout this,” she said. “We’ve exposed them, their lies, their cover-ups and they ended up paying us to do it.”

The Tituses sued the Humboldt County Fair Association in March of 2014, about a year after the board voted 13-7 not to renew Stuart’s contract as the association’s general manager, a job he’d held for 22 years. The Tituses alleged that the board fired Stuart in retaliation for his unwillingness to keep Caroline from writing pieces in the paper that made board members “look bad,” as well as his repeated reminders that the board should abide by state open-meeting laws. In court filings, the fair association countered that Stuart’s job performance and the way he interacted with board members were solely responsible for the decision to let him go.

The fair association announced the settlement in a press release last week, which comically noted that the “settlement was made as a compromise and not an omission of liability.” It’s safe to assume that the association meant “admission” instead of “omission” but, in any case, the $150,000 settlement will be covered by the association's insurance carrier.

“Frankly, we are just glad this time-consuming case has been settled and we can now focus on improvements at the fairgrounds, preparing for our 2016 fair and dealing with the many events that we have going on at the fairgrounds,” said fair General Manager Richard Conway in the release.

The press release also noted the fair recently received a $500,000 grant to make needed facility improvements, but the release erroneously stated the money came from the California State Fair Association, which doesn’t exist. In fact, the grant comes from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Caroline, who also recently sued the association under the California Public Records Act to force it to make all of its financial records public, said the grant is just the latest example of why the association needs to operate openly and transparently, and called her records lawsuit one of her “proudest accomplishments.”

“The fair has always received general fund monies,” she said, “so it’s really important that the public knows what happens to their money. I feel very proud that any member of the public, whether it’s me or you or anyone else, can go look and see how they’re handling our money.”

For more on the Tituses and their lawsuit, see past coverage here and here. And see the full, unedited fair association press release copied below:

Humboldt County Fair Settles Lawsuit,
Receives Large Grant & More!
Ferndale- A lawsuit brought by Stuart and Caroline Titus against the Humboldt County Fair Association was recently settled out of court without having to go to a jury trial. 
On January 5, 2016 the Federal Court in San Francisco held a Confidential Mandatory Settlement Conference relating to the case of Stuart and Caroline Titus v. the Humboldt County Fair Association and their directors.
Barbara Tyler, the Claims Manager from California Fair Services Authority, the HCFA's insurance provider, resolved the case with asettlement to Stuart and Caroline Titus and their attorneys in the amount of $150,000. The settlement was made as a compromise and was not an omission of liability. Settlement funds will be paid by the California Fair Services Authority.
General Manager, Richard Conway said,”Frankly, we are just glad this time-consuming case has been settled and we can now focus on improvements at the Fairgrounds, preparing for our 2016fair and dealing with the many events that we have going on at the fairgrounds.” David Mogni, Chairman of the Board of Directors echoed Conway’s remarks saying, “The lawsuit has been very disruptive and it is good to have it settled. I believe I can speak for the entire board when I say that we are just happy to put all of our focus back on the fairgrounds.”
Mogni added, “We have a lot of good things happening.  We recently received a grant for nearly $500,000 from the CaliforniaState Fair Association to make needed improvements. The majority of money will go to replacing the aging/failing water system at the fairgrounds. Some of it will be used to replace the asbestos floor at Belotti Hall.  (We are hoping the grant will cover both but we may be asking our community partners to pitch in to help with the Belotti project.) We received another grant for $12,500 from the Berg Foundation tomake much needed repairs to the Poultry Building at the Fairgrounds. As one of the oldest, if not the oldest building on the fairgrounds, we are happy to have it once more be usable for FFA, 4-H and other groups.
“And…” Mogni said, “That’s not all. In other big news, General Manager, Richard Conway was recently appointed to the board of directors for the California Authority of Racing Fairs.  This is wonderful news and will open the door to many relationships we feel will be helpful to our future racing schedule. Richard’s background is entrenched in the racing industry. He has 20 years of experience training racehorses throughout California and abroad. Specifically, he has trained for the internationally prominent Godolphin Racing Stable owned by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates.  While working for Godolphin, Richard managed stables in UAE, France, England and Ireland.  In addition, he has considerable training experience in both the Northern and Southern California circuits. The entire board is thrilled with this appointment.”
The Humboldt County Fair will be holding it’s 120th fair August 18-28, 2016.  More information is available on their web site, humboldtcountyfair.org or by calling the fair office at 707-786-9511.

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