The issue of whether the state intends to sell the Orange County Fairgrounds has been settled by Gov. Jerry Brown, who squelched the deal, but the state's attorneys are asking the state Supreme Court to modify the appellate court's ruling on the issue because they object to the precedent it establishes for public bidding.
The Attorney General's Office on Monday filed a request with the state supreme court to "depublish" a June 7 ruling from Fourth District appellate justices halting a sale of the 150 acres in Costa Mesa to Facilities Management West for $100 million.
The three-justice panel ruled the sale could not continue because there was no mechanism in the deal for state lawmakers to protest and because an analysis of the property's fair market value was not done.
Michael Witmer, an assistant attorney general who argued the case before the appellate court, said the state was seeking to have the ruling modified so that it would not stand as precedent.
The Department of General Services, which was to administer the sale,"submits that depublication is warranted because the opinion unjustifiably departs from settled principles of public contracting law and is likely to lead to unintended misuse as precedent."
State officials are concerned that adding a protest mechanism to every public bid would stagger the bureaucratic process, and that failed bidders can sue if they object to how a deal was handled, Witmer said.
State officials announced last month they no longer wanted to sell the fairgrounds.
Rival bidders sued to stop the sale, along with Assemblyman Jose Solorio, D-Anaheim, Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, Newport-Mesa Unified School District board member Katrina Foley and the Orange County Fair Preservation Society. Two separate but similar suits were later combined.
State lawmakers approved the sale of the fairgrounds in the summer of 2009 to help pay down the state's deficit. The state held an auction in January 2010, but officials later rejected the winning $55 million bid as too low.
State officials then tried to negotiate a deal with FMW and Costa Mesa to acquire the land in a public-private lease deal that would net the state $95 million and the city $235 million over 40 years. The deal fell through when it could not win support from state lawmakers.
In November, state officials accepted FMW's bid to buy the fairgrounds for $100 million with a $20 million down-payment and the rest to be paid off over 35 years.