The Big Fresno Fair is once again on the search for a new CEO as Lauri King is departing for a position at Fresno State.
King’s departure – which was first reported by The Business Journal on Wednesday – comes shortly after a state audit alleged a pay-to-play scheme at the fair.
The big picture: King’s new role will be as the director of development for Fresno State’s Ag One Foundation.
- The Ag One Foundation raises money to support scholarships and the university’s agriculture programs, having brought in over $27 million in endowed funds since its inception in 1979.
The backstory:King was named as the CEO of the Big Fresno Fair one year ago after serving as co-CEO alongside Stacy Rianda since Sep. 2020, when former CEO John Alkire retired.
- King helped shepherd the fair through the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the transition to a drive-thru event in 2020.
- She first started working for the Big Fresno Fair in 2003 under then-CEO Scott Anderson and worked her way up with Alkire in charge.
The audit: In May, the California Department of Food and Agriculture released an audit that included an alleged pay-to-play scheme with its nonprofit foundation from 2020 to 2021.
- The audit found that the 21st District Agricultural Association improperly agreed to over $550,000 in payments that were made to the Friends of the Big Fresno Fair Foundation. Those payments required contractors to donate funds directly to the foundation, which was effectively a pay-to-play scheme.
- King was not named in the audit.