Tribune obtained California Mid-State Fair performers' pay data via Freedom of Information Act

The Tribune based this story on information it received after filing a Freedom of Information Act request in June 2009 with California Mid-State Fair officials, seeking copies of entertainment contracts for the 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 fairs.

It took approximately six months before the majority of the documents were turned over by attorneys from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which oversees the state’s Division of Fairs and Expositions. The final documents arrived in March.

As she has done in the past, fair CEO Vivian Robertson declined to provide the information, saying it would be damaging to the fair’s future negotiations with entertainers.

However, each signed contract that The Tribune reviewed identifies the California Mid-State Fair, also known as the 16th District Agricultural Association, as a state agency. Therefore, by law, all records and files are open to public inspection.

Steven J. Burns, legal counsel for The McClatchy Co., which owns The Tribune, argued that the documents are clearly public records, noting that “the state’s requirement to produce these documents was established two years ago when previous contracts were finally disclosed by attorneys for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.”

“A contract between a private entity and a government agency is a public record, even if the entity asserts that the terms contain ‘proprietary information' and even if the contract provides for confidentiality,” Burns wrote in 2007.

-- Tribune staff