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May 23, 2014

Some county fair board members unhappy with fairground employment changes

NORMAN — Recent changes in fairgrounds employment have county stakeholders up in arms, pressing Cleveland County commissioners for answers.

The hiring of an executive director and firing of a fairgrounds employee have stirred controversy between the members of the Cleveland County fairgrounds and fairground officials.

The Cleveland County Fair Board met Monday evening to discuss the future of the facility. Concerned stakeholders filled the room, their brows furrowed and arms crossed, to express their concerns to board members and commissioners.

“The recent adverse personnel action initiated by the executive director was carried out without the knowledge, advice, counsel, agreement or notification of the president of the board of directors or any of its nine elected members,” board president Harlan Fipps said in an official statement.

As tensions during the meeting grew, Cleveland County Commissioner Rod Cleveland took the heat, answering questions concerning the recent firing of fairgrounds employee Andrea Earles, potential changes to the facility and the hiring of Executive Director Stephen Koranda.

“This board has never had a personnel issue that couldn’t be dealt with in-house by respectful counseling, motivation and positive reinforcement,” Fipps said in the statement.

Earles was terminated from her position with little explanation, she said. Just two weeks ago, the position she had for three-and-a-half years now sits empty.

Cleveland said the executive director position was created to take pressure off the Cleveland County Fair Board.

However, John McDaniels, a dairy farmer and fairgrounds board member, said the line between the responsibilities of the board and the new director have been blurred — raising more questions about the management of the facility than answers.

McDaniels said his main concern led a big question: Are the fairgrounds going to be run the same way that they have been in the past, or is someone coming in to change it?

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