Fair Park, Ctd: LULU Salaries at the State Fair?

Fair Park Ferris Wheel SM

Back in December, two City Council members asked the Dallas city auditor to take a long, hard look at “the major business partners currently operating facilities at Fair Park,” chief among them the State Fair of Texas.

They would be Phillip Kingston and Jennifer Staubach Gates.

“There is broad skepticism that the State Fair is a legitimate nonprofit,” says Philip Kingston, who vice-chairs the council’s Budget, Finance and Audit Committee. He and Jennifer Gates, who chairs the committee, sent a memo to City Auditor Craig Kinton on Wednesday asking for “an evaluation of financial, operational, or other risks that may currently relate to these business partners.”

The audit is going to include the Texas Discovery Gardens, Gexa Energy Pavilion, the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park, and “the cultural centers,” including the museums and the Music Hall.

The audit will also include the State Fair, a non-profit entity that runs the State Fair of Texas and takes over Fair Park for about 100 days of really great fun. Like everything in Texas, the State Fair is one of the biggest in the country. The city’s contract with this entity runs through Jan. 1, 2028.

According to Robert Wilonsky’s reporting in The Dallas Morning News, The State Fair hauled in record revenue in 2015 — $53.6 million in coupon sales alone. That’s $10 million more than it made in 2014. Nice but not going to cover $500 million in needed repairs.

The briefing also points out that Fair Park’s aging buildings — many of which were built or rebuilt for the 1936 Texas Centennial — need about $500 million worth of work, and that Fair Park needs “$125 million to $175 million in the next several capital bond programs for specific improvements.” Dallas voters will likely be asked to approve a billion-dollar bond program in 2017, and city officials have already said much of that will go toward repairing Dallas’ rotting streets and infrastructure.

There, Jon, is the figure that was not given out at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Whatever happened to Errol McKoy, the former president of Texas State Fair, who grubbed up $880,805 in annual salary? I remember choking when I first saw that figure. More than a quarter of a million dollars to run a Fair?  His successor is Mitchell Glieber, and he only made more than $300,000 a year…  yet brought in record-breaking sales.

According to its 2013 Form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service, its top nine-compensated employees accounted for $3 million in salaries, bonuses and incentives alone. Then-president Errol McKoy pocketed $880,805 in total income; the man who became his successor, Mitchell Glieber, took home more than $300,000. In 2010, reported in a piece headlined “The State Fair of Texas Scam” that its president takes home far more than any other state fair manager in the country, and “his peers don’t even come close.”

4 Comment

  • We should talk more. 🙂 I didn’t have time Tuesday night to pour over the IRS 990 forms the State fair files. But a cursory look (by someone admittedly more comfortable looking over for-profit balance sheets) points to some numbers I’d have questions about…just hadn’t gotten that far.

    • mm

      No worries, you brought us the vital stuff. But when I read your article, it reminded me of seeing these and then I went a digging… I just am wondering if maybe we can no longer afford the status quo of Fair Park.

      • mm

        I also wonder if Fair Park’s current use is compatible with the vision we have for Dallas. It’s some really valuable real estate considering its location, and I’m sure it could do so much more for Dallas and the neighborhood. Of course, removing the Science Place has meant a huge loss of traffic for the area, but the Children’s Aquarium and the Butterfly Garden are still there. Why aren’t we thinking outside the box when it comes to this place?