Clatsop County Fair and Expo Manager Kathi Mattinen has been placed on administrative leave, and county and Fair Board officials have declined to comment on her long-term job status.
At an executive session Thursday, which was closed to the public, the board considered the dismissal, discipline or complaints against a public employee. After the private discussion, the board publicly approved a motion to grant Assistant County Manager Monica Steele and Mike Autio, the board’s chairman, the authority to manage the separation of employment of fair employees.
“I don’t understand it. Can you explain it?” said Mattinen, the only fair employee in attendance at the public meeting following the executive session.
Mattinen had been on medical leave in the past, but was placed on administrative leave last week. She left the fairgrounds Thursday with a number of items from her office in hand.
“It’s an HR matter. It’s really a private matter. All I can say is she is on leave and we are working with Kathi,” Steele, the county’s interim human resources director, said Friday.
Mattinen declined to comment following the meeting.
John Lewis, the fair’s maintenance supervisor, is managing the fair in Mattinen’s absence, along with one administrative assistant.
Mattinen has managed the fair since 2016, following management turnover in the past decade. In addition to the Clatsop County Fair, two of the largest annual local galas — the Astoria-Warrenton Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival and the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival — take place at the fairgrounds, along with several other events.
The fair used nearly all of its $438,000 materials and services budget in the first six months of the fiscal year. County commissioners in February approved the use of $100,000 in contingency money through June. The fair’s total budget is $1.4 million.
Unforeseen maintenance issues, an unusual management structure, a high volume of staff turnover and poor spending choices have all been pointed to by employees and board members as reasons for the overspending. The board had discussed putting special projects — including one that would install new heaters in the arena and another to renovate the farm house — on hold.