The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, with the exception of lone dissenter Mike Wilson, abdicated its responsibility to keep public business public in a vote last week.

The issue, despite county staff reports to the contrary, was not whether the county should offer the Humboldt County Fair Association a new eight-year lease to the fairgrounds. The issue is what the county stripped out of the new lease: language requiring the association’s records “be and remain” public.

Prior to last week’s vote, the county had the upper hand. The county could have preserved or even strengthened transparency requirements in the new lease. We would need some assistance in picking our jaws up off the floor, but the county could have done it.

As Wilson said last week: “I think if we’re doing business with nonprofits, especially if they’re managing assets of the county, it would seem reasonable that we would require minutes to be made public at least through us by our request.”

This is bigger than any legal dispute the association has with its previous general manager.

The fair is a showcase for our county and brings a lot of business here. We all have an interest in how it’s run, and that interest doesn’t change just because the county fair’s being run by a nonprofit organization. That the Brown Act doesn’t apply to nonprofits is irrelevant; the county could have required the fair association to sing and dance if it so desired. It was the county’s choice. It was entirely up to your Board of Supervisors. And the supervisors voted 4-1 to hand the association a lease that shines less — not more — light on what’s going on.

Who’s running the show?

Who’s pulling the strings?

What’s going on behind closed doors?

Why wait another eight years to find out?

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