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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Sheriff's Office investigating Hernando fair association finances


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BROOKSVILLE - The sheriff's office has launched an investigation into the Hernando County Fair Association's finances.

The probe comes one week after Hernando County commissioners raised concerns about a report they received showing the association's current financial picture and a lack of specifics following a request to the board for money.

"No specific crime or person is being targeted at this time," according to Denise Moloney, sheriff's office spokeswoman. "There is enough 'reasonable suspicion' to justify further investigation to determine if, in fact, a crime has occurred and, if so, by whom."

County commissioners on Wednesday said they were not aware of any investigation.

At last week's county commission meeting, board members opted not to honor a request from fair association officials to chip in an unspecified amount of money for additional advertising to promote this year's 63rd annual event.

The board instead asked the fair association to provide a detailed report on its current finances and indicate where the requested advertising money would be spent.

County Administrator Len Sossamon said Wednesday he was still waiting on that report. It is not expected to be on the agenda when the commission meets Tuesday.

The commissioners were reluctant to accept the findings of an annual financial report supplied to them by fair association officials.

What raised a red flag to commissioners was a copy of the Fair Association's financial statements and accountant's review report included in the agenda packet at last week's meeting. On the front of that report, it stated that it covered the year that ended May 31, 2012. But someone crossed out 2012 and wrote in 2013.

And in the introduction to the report, Brooksville accountant Pamela McKinney said she reviewed the Fair Association's finances as of May 31, 2012. Total net assets were $486,648. About 96 percent of the Fair Association's total revenue from the annual Hernando County Fair and rental of fair buildings and grounds in Brooksville.

Advertising expenses during the year ending May 31, 2012, were $13,378, according to the report.

Robin McAndrew, president of the Hernando County Fair Association, urged county commissioners in a letter to contact her office if they had any questions regarding the group's activities or finances.

Several years ago, the county commission granted the Hernando County Fair Association a special deed for the fair property and directed it to continue with the annual fair and to make improvements, McAndrew said.

"Together with the annual fair and many additional fundraisers throughout the year, we have been able to make some of the much-needed repairs and some very nice improvements," McAndrew wrote. "However, we still have a long way to go with improving the fairgrounds."

Efforts to reach Fair Association officials Thursday were unsuccessful.

(352) 544-5290

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