When the board came back into open session about 11:15 a.m., the members covered more routine items and then engaged in a lengthy debate about approving OC Fair & Event Center Chief Executive Steven Beazley's ability to execute some contracts unilaterally.
Berardino and fellow board newcomer Gerardo Mouet criticized the policy, which gives Beazley the ability to approve general contracts without board approval for up to $200,000. The two were defeated, 4 to 2, in delaying the policy's adoption to a later date.
By then, the meeting was about 30 minutes over its schedule and the public hadn't yet been given time to speak. Ellis announced that two board members had to leave soon, so the public would get only 10 minutes to speak before the board lost its quorum, or majority.
"Sorry, people have real lives," he said as the public grumbled.
"You owe it to the public to make sure your real lives don't conflict with your duty to the public," Berardino retorted to audience applause.
Ellis later apologized for the comment as tension between the board and audience grew.
With a stack of speaker cards in front of him and each audience member allowed up to three minutes at the dais, there was little time to waste. The board, however, then spent the next six minutes debating whether to allow the public to speak or to allow Berardino a chance to introduce an item he wanted placed on a future agenda.
The public went first, then Berardino motioned for the board to consider a community-led commission to investigate the fairgrounds sale at a future meeting.
Board members offered a couple of words. Berardino's motion was approved unanimously and the meeting adjourned.