Sally Symons resigns as Fair CEO

While thousands of people enjoyed the Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fair over the Labor Day holiday weekend, it appears there’s been some problems behind the scenes of the Fair.


Sally Symons resigned as CEO of the Tri-County Fairgrounds on Monday morning, just hours after the Fair ended.

The 18th District Agricultural Association put out a press release late Tuesday evening announcing Symons’ departure.

The press release said, “On Monday morning September 7, 2015, the Tri-County Fair Board of Directors accepted the resignation of Fair CEO Sally Symons. Ms. Symons is no longer affiliated with the Fair in any way.”

It was signed by Paul Dostie, Tri-County Fair board president. Symons was hired in February of 2014.

Sierra Wave Media reached out to Dostie via email for more information Tuesday night, and Dostie responded, “There is nothing more that I can say at this time other than we accepted her resignation.”

It’s been a tumultuous year and half for the Fair office – early in 2014 an investigation began involving possible embezzlement funds from the Fair. In August of 2014, the Inyo County District Attorney’s office announced that Bishop-area resident Rebecca Bragdon had entered pleas of “guilty” to misappropriation of public funds from the Tri-County Fairgrounds.

The pleas arose from charges that she embezzled funds from the Fairgrounds when she was employed as an office manager from July 2012 through July 2013. The matter
was originally investigated by the Inland Division of the California Highway Patrol.

Restitution in that case was set at $25,979.82.



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16 Responses to Sally Symons resigns as Fair CEO

  1. Lorijellybean September 10, 2015 at 7:13 am #

    I read Tuesday that they asked her to step down, and she wasn’t given a reason. If it had been me, I would have made them fire me. There’s no advantage to resigning, unless they were going to offer a substantial severance package.

  2. DBCooper September 11, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    Lorijellybean, did you even attend the Fair? The turnout and quality this year was reason enough for her to “resign”.

    I know some would say that she wasn’t the only one responsible, but in reality she was. The CEO should have had the ability to bring disparate people together to work towards her vision. that is at the core of leadership skills. This is why she was hired in the first place. She was paid to lead and clearly was unable to.

    A quick glance at Mrs. Symon’s Facebook page gives you a glimpse of what she believes to be the reason for her departure. Having trouble working with critical, opinionated, drama laden people are not what a CEO should be hinting at as reasons. That is exactly what they are brought on to face and overcome. That kind of blame shifting is lower to middle management thinking, not CEO thinking.

    Of course those issues didn’t stop her from traveling all over the country this last year talking to others who organize fairs to get a better idea of what she should be doing. I wonder who footed that bill and what value that ultimately brought to the table.

    I was certainly unable to see that value on display at the Fair the past weekend.

    Rampant waste, corruption, embezzlement and ineptitude seem to be a semi-common thread here in Bishop from our “officials”.

    At best, it shows a lack of oversight and poor evaluation skills from those whom decide who is or is not hired.

    At worst, it seems those that are supposed to watch the hen house are growing fat on chicken these days.

    Sad times indeed.

    • Lorijellybean September 13, 2015 at 5:59 am #

      DBCooper, no I didn’t attend the fair. I also do not know Ms Symons personally. I just was thinking out loud, so to speak, about how a forced resignation has no advantages over being fired.
      Especially when it’s just going out to the media anyway, so if it had been me, I would have made them fire me. At least I could get Unemployment out of the deal, and possibly could have more damage control as far as my résumé is concerned.
      Lesson: Let them fire you if there’s no advantage to you “being asked to step down”.

      • DBCooper September 24, 2015 at 6:27 am #

        That’s quite a response.

        Make them fire you so you can get unemployment.



        • Lorijellybean September 24, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

          DBCooper, this was drama from 2 weeks ago. Everyone else is onto the Bishop police Chief’s scandal now.
          Are you trying to keep this certain drama going? I already forgot about it and moved on like everyone else.
          And of course I’d make someone fire me if they refused to give me an answer to why they want me to step down and I felt I worked my behind off, and wanted to keep my job.Why would i make it easy for them, and not for myself? Me and mine come first, everyone else takes a backseat.
          I’m sure Ms. Symons would love to move on from this. I’d like to let her. After this, I’m not coming back to this thread to feed anymore trolls.
          Have a wonderful evening.

  3. Diana Harris September 13, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

    I worked for many years for the Costa Mesa Orange County Fair under Becky Bailey, maybe Sally should have visit that fair to lea4n organizations and promoting business through the fair. This year our tri county fair looked absolutely bare, dark, not very exciting unless it was the kettle corn stand or the teens at the rides. What the hell has happen? Maybe Sally has way too many things to do. It would be nice 4o see alot more activities going on for all ages. Wish they had more contests for every age going on every couple of hours even if you only win a ribbon, it would bring in more people. Wish I was on the committee of events, I would see that there is something for everyone. It looked like less booths were there, what was there did not look busy. Sad to see the cement pond was missing water too. I saw more young probation officers on every corner laughing and having a great time socializing with friends. I hope next year will be better and wish them luck whoever takes Sally s place.

  4. mtngal September 14, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    Smoke and weather also played a large part in many peoples’ decision not to attend the Fair this year, I’m sure – the blame doesn’t all belong to Ms. Symons. I saw her (don’t know her personally) trying to enliven the Fair by looking at how other fairs operate and returning our Fair to its country roots. That said, I did not attend, due to smoke and asthma.

  5. MJA September 14, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    I hadn’t been to the tri county fair in quite a few years, not since my kids were young. But now I have a 4 year old grandson and when my wife told me she had tickets to the demo derby and that we were taking D Man, (grandson) well I couldn’t wait to go. The fair was to me as good as always, real Americana. We checked out all the exhibits, the best chickens and were entertained by the cowboy clowns on miniature horses. We saw the goats and the pigs and then went to the the art show, saw the indoor ice skating rink and the Smoky the Bear tent, Then came the food, the kettle corn and fry bread, the egg roles too. Then it was off to the arcade games were they allowed D to play as long he wanted and I got to try to shoot out a star again. We surely had to ride the ferris wheel that we threw an airplane off of, which took us to the swinging boat ride. D got scared and it made me sick. We found friends and family there too, all having a great time. And then there was the derby with more beer booths than cars, someone had that figured out right!
    I think the fair was as good as its always been, and thanks Sally and everyone else who helped put it together. It sure must take a lot of work to put on a fair, and we sure had a lot of fun!
    Thank You,


  6. Ickity September 15, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

    Sally really tried to bring in new events and categories to the fair. The sock puppets and pinatas were a nice addition to the old entries. There was very little participation from the community which is sad, but not her fault. Teachers, parents, and community leaders need to reiterate holding on to those school projects, Scout projects, veggies, and 4H projects to enter. There were only 2 people in the margarita contest! 2!! I think margaritas are more popular than that. Sally even extended the deadline for entries and for receiving entries. She tried, unfortunately, apathy on behalf of the communities is to blame for the low number of entries.
    There are so many people who give up their time to help out and they all really want the fair to be a great success, but it takes more than volunteers to make people come and make it better.

  7. Facts Matter September 15, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    As a citizen of Bishop for most of my life and as someone who has had the pleasure of working with Ms. Symons, I am compelled to clarify some misrepresentations of the facts. First, it was under the previous CEO’s tenure that the embezzlement of public funds took place, not Ms. Symons. If you want to be angry about corruption, be upset that he has since taken on a new government job with a much larger paycheck as a reward for his performance as CEO. Ms. Symons has never been accused of corruption. Second, the county fair was the same as it always has been. I attended multiple nights and saw the very same fair that I have visited for the past 20+ years. It is true that very few community members chose to participate in the fair’s contests, but this is a long standing issue, not something that sprung up this year. Not to mention, she was asked to step down before the fair ended. Clearly, this was not a contributing factor. Third, the fair grounds is in a fiscal crisis, but not due to Ms. Symons; she inherited a fair grounds with an unbalanced budget. Under the previous CEO a new building was added to the fairgrounds at tax-payer expense. Why would anyone undergo new construction when the current 4 structures are so out of date and spend most of the year unused? Ms. Symons surely did not contribute in any way to the majority of the issues that plague the fairgrounds. Lastly, anyone who can question Sally’s work ethic has never spent time in her presence. Even after the board asked her to step down, she remained at the fair until 1:30 AM each night, knowing she would never receive any acclaim or compensation for her time. And don’t worry, she arrived by 8 AM with a smile on her face.

    Now for my opinions. As I mentioned, I know Sally Symons and she is invariably a woman of profound integrity. Why would she resign? Because she actually cares about the fairgrounds and the welfare of our community. Could she have fought for a settlement? Sure, but it would have cost us, the tax payers, and she is above that. This might be difficult to swallow in today’s individualistic culture, but if you just look at Sally’s record, she has selflessly devoted her time and energy to this community again and again. As I mentioned, what public servant on salary would work until 1:30 AM, literally 17 hour days, after being asked to step down?

    On a final note, DB Cooper, you clearly have a personal vendetta against Ms. Symons. There is no CEO on earth that can fix all, nor is there any CEO on earth that can effectively run a business without the support of their board. I am just going to throw out a guess that you are a board member or that you have some other personal conflict with Ms. Symons. While I also am adamantly opposed to government waste and corruption, you are barking up the wrong tree here.

  8. sugarmagnolia September 15, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

    I’d like to know how much it costs to have so many law enforcement officers at the fair? In case they haven’t noticed, we have a fairly small town, if a problem arose they should be able to get there real quick. No need to have 10 or more LEO at the fair at one time, in my opinion.

    Can someone find out if the fair had to pay for these officers? and if so, how much?

    Are they working for their normal wages, as part of their normal duties? or is the fair paying overtime wages to have them walking around for minimal gain?

    Yes, I understand a police presence helps deter problems, but come on, this is more than overkill. 2 LEO at anyone time should be plenty for our fair….with on-duty CHP, Inyo Co. Sheriff and Bishop PD providing backup if needed.

    • Low-Inyo September 17, 2015 at 7:35 am #

      But on the other hand,if there was trouble there at the fair,the first complaint would be saying there wasn’t enough Law Enforcement there to correct ,prevent or fix the problem.

  9. Trouble September 17, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    Lack of law enforcement in Bishop is hardly a problem here. Their all within two minutes of there.

  10. Low-Inyo September 17, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    Trouble :There is more to Law Enforcement than that….they don’t all just sit around an office waiting on a call to respond to…and if they were to do that,it would cause a situation of red lights and sirens,speeding on the town streets to get to the problem at the fairgrounds….then having to find the problem at the fairgrounds… and then having to deal with it after the fact,where a good chance those that caused the problem would be long gone,leaving the victims as the only ones left at the scene….then back to the red lights and sirens and speeding on the town streets again trying to find the ones that caused the problem,that could have maybe been dealt with at the fairgrounds instead of somewhere in town or on the highway…….mute point anyway….there were officers there…..apparently,they had little or no problems….the only ones that were bothered were those that seem to have a problem when they happen to see a police presence at a public event.

    • sugar magnolia September 18, 2015 at 9:39 am #

      that makes no sense Low….why wouldn’t the two on site LEO identify the perps? They would only have to control the situation on their own long enough for others to get there. Why have a plethora of LEO on-site for situations that rarely happen? that is plain and simple non-sense.

      And if the fair has to pay for the LEO presence, it makes it even worse.

  11. Trouble September 18, 2015 at 6:17 am #

    I’ll be shorter on my response to that one low_inyo. HOGWASH!


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