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Fair Board votes to keep Tel Phil

The move caps two months of tough talk between the board and the longtime swap meet operator.

November 17, 2011|By Joseph Serna

COSTA MESA — Tel Phil Enterprises will not have to give up operating the weekend swap meet at the Orange County Fairgrounds in 2013, the Orange County Fair Board voted unanimously Thursday.

With Dale Dykema and David Ellis absent — Tel Phil's two biggest skeptics — the remaining board members voted 7 to 0 to withdraw the board's previous notice to end its contract with Tel Phil in 18 months.

"If we all embrace being forward looking, if we all embrace the principle of working together, we can all be successful," said board member Nick Berardino, who was on a two-person committee that met with Tel Phil this month to try and salvage the company's relationship with the board. "That was the foundation, the underpinning of our discussions, and they were great discussions. I think we're off to a great start."

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Thursday's vote capped a tumultuous two months for Tel Phil and the Fair Board. In September, just days after fair officials met with Tel Phil representatives to try and find common ground over financial disputes surrounding the swap meet, the board voted to break its relationship with the swap meet operator after 42 years.

Jeff Teller, Tel Phil's company president and chief executive, accused some board members of retaliating against his business because of his involvement in an effort to stop the sale of the fairgrounds in 2009 and 2010.

"What's really important and what kind of stopped this last year or two or three was that communication with Teller and the [fairgrounds] staff," said board member Ali Jahangiri.

At the board's October meeting, an impassioned outcry from swap meet vendors, local residents and Berardino, among others, convinced enough of the board to reconsider its vote. Thursday's vote came with Teller's assurance that his company will play nice.

Teller expressed regret at how the relationship between Tel Phil and the board soured so quickly. He said he was bothered greatly that his vendors, which number in the hundreds, were affected by the board's earlier decision to oust Tel Phil.

"I take my responsibility as president of my company very seriously," Teller said. "I take my responsibility of representing [the vendors] greatly."

The board and Tel Phil agreed that some of their disagreements still have to be ironed out, but that they will work together on cross-promoting the swap meet and fair, and find ways to boost swap meet business.

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