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Concerns Surround Tennessee State Fair - John Dunn

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Concerns and conflicts surround the Tennessee State Fair. State auditors have found problems with grant money, and some believe the state fair commission is biased.
    
"When the comptroller finds a questionable financial practice, than it is pretty serious," says Rick Williams who leads the "Save Our Fairgrounds" group.

The group "Save Our Fairgrounds" is talking about an audit of the state's Department of Agriculture. It says the state granted $260,000 to the Tennessee State Fair Association without sufficient receipts and documentation. The state realizes it's a problem.

"We have taken steps to ensure that in the future any grant payments are reviewed, and that proper documentation is in place before these payments are made," says Tom Womack with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
    
There is also concern about the State Fair and Exposition Commission, which oversees the fair. Four of its members helped found the Tennessee State Fair Association, which is a separate group which ran the fair for the past three years and is now bidding to run it again.
     
Even though they haven't been awarded the contract, the State Fair Association appears confident. The group has already posted the dates for next year's fair on its website. Some say it's an unfair advanatage. "They feel the fix is in already, and the State Fair Commission will award it to the same people and we'll have the same lousy fair," says Rick Williams.

The Metro Fair Board, which handles the fairgrounds, has other concerns. "It has been a challenge the last couple of years in particular," says Ned Horton with the Metro Fair Board.

The city spends $230,000 to host the fair, but last year only received $167,000 in lease payments. A negative return costs taxpayers money. "We want our costs covered with the arrangement," says Horton.

Groups who are interested in running the state fair for the next five years have until December 13th to submit a proposal to the state.
    
Despite its critics, the Department of Agriculture says it is committed to a fair and open process.

For news updates follow John Dunn on twitter @WZTVJohnDunn

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