Nevada County Fairgrounds, state silent about CEO Rea Callender | TheUnion.com

Nevada County Fairgrounds, state silent about CEO Rea Callender

No one wants to talk about Nevada County Fairgrounds CEO Rea Callender.

Fairgrounds board president Steve Steele and acting CEO Patrick Eidman gave brief comments in late July about Callender, who is on extended leave for unstated reasons. The fairgrounds refused to answer any further questions about Callender, including what day he was placed on leave, and referred all comment to the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

Food and Ag officials likewise refused comment, calling the issue confidential and exempt from release.

Callender himself, contacted this week by The Union, ended the phone call when a reporter identified himself.

Steve Lyle, director of the state department's public affairs division, called it a personnel matter. Michele Dias, the department's general counsel, referenced her office's response to an open records request when contacted.

That response cites what the department claims is a legal exemption from releasing information.

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Karen Ross, secretary of Food and Ag, also declined comment.

"Personnel matters are deliberated and decided by the fair board in closed sessions and those minutes are not subject to the Public Records Act," Ross said in an email.

According to board minutes, Callender's last board meeting was June 19. That was just over a month before the Nevada County Fair.

Callender was absent when the board, at its July 17 meeting, held a closed-door session to discuss the CEO's performance evaluation. The board returned to open session 23 minutes later.

No action was taken in closed session, the minutes state.

Nikki Moore, legal counsel with the California News Publishers Association, said revealing a medical reason for leaving would violate someone's privacy. Releasing allegations of misconduct — which no one has made — wouldn't.

Additionally, if Callender himself chose to take leave, no board action would have been required, Moore said.

No fairgrounds or state official would comment on the circumstances of Callender's departure.

According to Moore, releasing factual information, such as the date Callender left and whether he's on leave with pay, violates no one's privacy. The fairgrounds and Food and Ag have refused to answer either question.

"I agree it doesn't violate privacy," Moore said in an email. "They are not on firm ground here."

Steele did release Callender's salary: $117,171.84.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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