State Fair Director Jackie Nokes has been asked to take a paid administrative leave until Aug. 29, about 10 days before the 1994 State Fair opens.
Nokes, who has headed the Utah Division of Expositions since July 1987, said Tuesday she was informed of the leave last Thursday by Carol Nixon, director of the Division of Community Development, an agency within the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development."I was disappointed. I have worked all my life and I have never been asked to take administrative leave," Nokes said. She said Nixon told her department executive director Joe Jenkins was "worried about me and my health."
Nixon told the Deseret News the leave is a "management decision, which we felt was certainly in her (Nokes') best interest and in the best interest of the state fair and the state."
"Nokes has a very competent staff and Jackie felt very comfortable in putting them in charge this next few weeks," Nixon said. "Jackie's job is not in jeopardy. She will be the decisionmaker on her future. It will be up to her to come back and get back on board, but we felt she needed some time. She agreed with this. The decision was not made in a vacuum," Nixon said.
But Nokes said, "It puts a lot of pressure on my staff for me to be at home." She said she feels she also has the support of the State Fair Board.
Nokes said the leave time amounts to three weeks but that she (Nokes) had requested an additional week "because my family is coming to town."
An editorial aired on KSL supporting the fair and opposing moving the annual exhibition to a new location. The editorial was aired after a news broadcast which, according to Nokes, inaccurately said the fair was losing money. Nokes said she called the station to express concerns about the story, and the editorial was a result of her call. Nixon said state officials had concerns about Nokes before the editorial was aired.
The Deseret News endeavored to reach Jenkins Tuesday morning but was told he was in a meeting.
Questions about moving the fair to a new location or the state continuing to put money into facilities at the Utah State Fairpark have resurfaced in recent weeks in the wake of the appointment by Jenkins earlier this year of a state task force that is examining that and a variety of other matters.
Nokes said, "The fair has not lost money. The events don't lose money. That amount of money has gone into capital improvements for the fair. The Legislature has made appropriations for capital improvements, but we have also had a great deal of materials, (free) labor and other materials donated to the fair."
The fair director, who formerly was employed by KSL before being hired by the state, said she is "not (against the work) of the task force. I think it is great. I just want it to be told that we didn't lose money."
Nokes' comments about funding are tied to information presented in a June meeting of the task force that the Expositions Division made a $1 million profit on the fair over the past seven years but also required a state subsidy for overall operations of the division.
With new construction and renovation projects at the Fairpark, the division has seen increasing revenue in recent years. And Nokes; Donna Dahl, assistant division director; and others have said they are convinced that interim (the period when the fair is not in operation) rentals would increase even more if the state would continue to put money into capital improvements for the Fairpark.
Nokes did not criticize Nixon or Jenkins, but said she was concerned after Jenkins informed her after the first meeting of the task force that she was not to attend future task force meetings. Jenkins said he also would not attend future meetings of the group.