Ex-fairgrounds racing operator 'blindsided' by Metro lawsuit

Monday, April 9, 2012 at 2:35pm

One of the two former fairgrounds racing operators sued by Metro says he felt “blindsided” when he learned he was listed as a defendant in the city’s effort to collect more than $100,000 in unpaid racetrack fees.

Former NASCAR drivers Chad Chaffin and Bobby Hamilton Jr. headed the group Fairgrounds Speedway USA LLC, which the fair board in 2011 awarded a two-year contract to host auto-racing events at the fairgrounds speedway. But last fall, the board found the organization had breached its contract with Metro after the group failed to deliver on a $53,100 contractual obligation to use the track in 2011.

Months later, Metro and the fair board in March targeted the speedway operators in a suit that cites a separate $53,100 rent payment due for the 2012 season as well as $3,000 in bad checks that bounced. In all, Metro is seeking $106,200 in financial damages.

Both men are listed as defendants even though Hamilton and Chaffin had a well-documented public split not long into last year’s racing season, leaving Hamilton as the track’s lone operator. Tennessee State Fair Director Buck Dozier, as well as the fair board itself, recognized the separation publicly at board meetings. Nonetheless, Metro attorneys have sued not just Hamilton but Chaffin as well.

“When I was served the lawsuit, I was shocked,” Chaffin told The City Paper. “I did enter into a lease with Bobby [Hamilton Jr.] to lease the racetrack. That’s a fact.

“But my dealings with Bobby Hamilton Jr. were about the same as the [fair board’s] dealings with Bobby Hamilton Jr.,” he said. “Our relationship didn’t last long. I wanted to continue with the track, but he was adamant he wouldn’t let that happen. So, basically I left. I let him buy me out.”

Chaffin, who is represented by attorney Pat Flynn, declined to elaborate on the cause of the split.

According to Chaffin, when he left the businesses partnership Fairgrounds Speedway USA wasn’t behind in rent payments nor had the group written bad checks. Chaffin said fairgrounds staff members never once contacted him to try to collect money, adding that he doesn’t hold any liability for the contract breach.

“Apparently, Metro’s attorney feels there is a cause to come after me,” Chaffin said. “I certainly disagree with that.”

Metro attorney Chris Lackey, heading the case for the city, declined to comment when asked why Chaffin is listed as a defendant.

Chaffin and Hamilton are both listed in the original Fairgrounds Speedway USA contract with the fair board, which likely explains why both men were served suits.

After a disappointing year of fairgrounds racing, underscored by financial woes, the fair board hired racing promoter Tony Formosa Jr. to hold auto racing at the city-owned track this summer.

The board picked Formosa’s proposal over a bid that Chaffin, NASCAR driver Sterling Marlin and Nashville businessman Bill Freeman submitted.

7 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 4/9/12 at 6:01

I cannot help the feeling this is all part of Mayor Dean's double secret master plan to get his way with the fairgrounds property even after the voters declared they wanted no changes.

I just can't really trust a man who reminders me so of a cartoon character.

By: nissanguy on 4/9/12 at 8:00

I feel bad for Chad - he got screwed over just like the rest of us - racers and racing proponents alike. Ahhh - but a new season of racing at the Fairgrounds is upon us - and I've been tweaking my toy!! I'm planning on coming over there and eating someone's lunch...then I'm gonna call their Momma and tell her how good it was!! You boys get ready....gonna be thunder in music city this weekend!!!

By: wataboutbob on 4/10/12 at 7:55

Racing this weekend? How can they expect success if they don't at least do a little advertising?

By: pswindle on 4/10/12 at 8:36

This is the strong arm of power at work. Dean will get his way with the help of Dozier.

By: BigPapa on 4/10/12 at 12:43

I think I posted before .... you can't fight city hall. Dean will win this, he has the power the office and he's smarter. The guy was head of metro legal, you don't think he knows how to maneuver through stuff like this?

By: fair_minded on 4/10/12 at 2:47

There is a new bill before the legislature, sponsored by Joe Haynes for the state to take over the state fair and likely move it elsewhere.... so far there is very little opposition, few questions being asked, and no media coverage. Mostly because the bill is being presented with the "big lie" that the fair has already decided to close after this year, and thus needs protection.

Below is an alert sent out by the Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group and an email sent to members of the legislature by an individual. Please, call and write your representative and your senator (unless it's Joe Haynes, of course) and tell them to kill this bill when it's on the floor for a vote-- it's already passed in committee!
Legislature Considers Bill To End The State Fair and Fairgrounds As We Know It.

Since getting his rear-end kicked by the massive popular support for the Fairgrounds and the passage of the referendum, it appears that Mayor Dean has been casting about for a way to kill the Fair and deliver the Fairgrounds to his developer pals that would have some built-in deniability for him. Well, he found it.

Senator Joe Haynes, a board member of the jack-leg Tennessee State Fair Association, has sponsored legislation that turn the State Fair over to the State Commissioner of Agriculture, also a board member of TSFA. The CofAg would have the authority under this bill to personally select a board of commissioners to develop rules and regulations to run the State Fair and to make rules about the requirements for a vendor to operate the Fair.

You should remember that the TSFA has run the mediocre fairs that we've had for the past two years after getting preferential selection by the Fair Board of Commissioners, and this year they were awarded the contract after placing a bid that was $250,000 lower than the high bidder, and $150,000 lower than the next highest bidder. They also admitted that they didn't have the funds to put on the State Fair this year. But they still got the contract.

And ever since their founding, the TSFA has made it clear that their purpose is to take over the State Fair and move it elsewhere, most likely outside of Davidson County.

Haynes sponsored similar legislation last year that was tailored so that the TSFA was the only organization to qualify as a fair vendor. This year he didn't even bother with that, he just gave his fellow TSFA board member complete authority to make the rules in the future. That legislation died on the floor, and this year's version should do the same!

This new legislation also contains language that could allow the Fairgrounds to be sold:
"(5) Accept on behalf of the state conveyances of property for the purposes of conducting fairs, expositions, and exhibits, subject to any terms and conditions agreed to by the commission;

(6) Sell or convey all or a portion of the property, land, or buildings under its management subject to the approval of the state building commission;"

We can easily see Metro declaring the Fairgrounds as "surplus" if the state takes over the Fair and passing ownership over to the State, who in turn, would sell the property to developers.

If you think the Davidson County Fair Board has provided some poor management in the past few years, just imagine what a state board could do, and especially one that is influenced and run by the TSFA!

The current business model for the State Fair and the Fairgrounds has worked for over 100 years, and the way to fix it's current problems is not to just give it all over to the State.

In addition to the loss of prestige in holding the State Fair in Nashville, and the potential loss of the property if the State Fair is moved and the Fairgrounds closed, it would also cause the loss of jobs for the fifteen or so full-time employees of the Fairgrounds and it would also impact the employment and income of the hundreds and hundreds of vendors who make their living at the monthly flea market and the various shows and events held at the Fairgrounds.

And this is only a part of the 50-60 million dollars of economic impact that Davidson County currently enjoys because of the Fairgrounds and that would all disappear along with the State Fair.

The House version of the bill is scheduled for discussion by the Government Operations Committee on Tuesday, April 10.

You can read the bill here.
senate version - http://fairgroundsheritage.org/pdf/2012_legislation_SB3603.pdf
house version - http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/107/Bill/HB3208.pdf
And read amendment one and amendment two.

Be sure and read the amendments as well;

Then, if you don't know your state representative, go here, , and find out who they are. Call and email them. Have your friends, neighbors, church members, fellow employees, and all of your relatives call and email. If the bill should somehow pass, then start calling the governor to veto the bill.

This legislation must be stopped in order for the State Fair to continue as we know it, and for Davidson County to continue to operate the Fairgrounds and enjoy the millions of dollars of economic impact each year.

We took on the mayor and won, now it's time to take on the state legislature and do the same!

I am writing to you concerning the legislation and amendments presented to the House Agriculture Committee by Rep. Womack.

Firstly, it was presented with false information. I'm not sure where Rep. Womack gets his information, but at this time, there are NO plans to end the Tennessee State Fair currently held at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville.

In fact, in the most recent election in August of 2011, citizens of Davidson County passed a referendum amending the Metropolitian Charter to make it more difficult than it currently is for the Metro council to make any changes at the State Fairgrounds or with the State Fair itself. This was in response to a plan proposed by Mayor Dean to end the Fair and close down the Fairgrounds.

This proposal by the Mayor resulted in the largest attendance ever at a Metro Council meeting when over 3,000 citizens showed up to protest and oppose the Mayor's plan. The citizens of Davidson County enjoy being the hosts of the Tennessee State Fair and expressed their desire for it to remain in this past election.

So not only are there no plans at this time to end the Fair, the citizens of Davidson County are intent on retaining both the State Fair and the Fairgrounds and improving their operations.

The only thing scheduled to end is the temporary contract to produce the Fair held by an organization of which Sen. Haynes, senate sponsor of this legislation, and the Commissioner of Agriculture are both members. However, a new contract will be forthcoming for an organization to produce the Fair. The Fair is not ending simply because the contract with their organization is concluding.

While the State Fair has been held on the same property for over 100 years, it was originally produced by a State Commission, and not by Davidson County. The State would lease the Fairgrounds from the county. However, in 1923, the State discovered it was too cumbersome for them to produce the Fair and passed legislation to give the control of the State Fair over to Davidson County, appointing a local Fair Board of Commissioners. (See Private Act 515).

Many citizens do not feel that the State could produce the Fair any better today than it could when it gave up the effort 90 years ago. The current business model of the Tennessee State Fair has worked well for all of these years, and while recently there have been some rough roads financially, it has still remained self-sustaining all of this time, and operating on publically owned property. In it's entire existance, it has never cost Davidson County or the State of Tennessee a dime!

So on behalf of the majority of voters in Davidson County who passed the August 2011 referendum, I urge you to oppose passage of this legislation and continue to allow the State Fair to operate under the provisions of the existing Act 515 of the legislature.

PS for representatives from Davidson County :

The current business model for the State Fair and the Fairgrounds has worked for over 100 years, and the way to fix it's current problems is not to just give it all over to the State.
In addition to the loss of prestige in holding the State Fair in Nashville, and the potential loss of the property if the State Fair is moved and the Fairgrounds closed, it would also cause the loss of jobs for the fifteen or so full-time employees of the Fairgrounds and it would also impact the employment and income of the hundreds and hundreds of vendors who make their living at the monthly flea market and the various shows and events held at the Fairgrounds.

And this is only a part of the 50-60 million dollars of economic impact that Davidson County currently enjoys because of the Fairgrounds, and that would all disappear along with the State Fair.

Please consider the citizens of Davidson County and the desires they have expressed and work to insure that this legislation does not pass.

By: TharonChandler on 4/10/12 at 10:19

From Tharon Chandler; 44 yr old American man visiting South East Asia .

Newspaper has always been interesting to me and never more than Today; here in the Philippines. The headlines today in papers to include the 'Manila Bulletin' and the 'Philippine Daily Inquirer' include articles about the 'North Korea Rocket Test', (pending a long distance launch scheduled for mid-April and forecast to land harmless debris among the philippine islands) and the State Politics of the Philippine President and Vice- President (Benigno Aquino and Jejomar Binay, respectively). As a man here visiting some local people and as a student, college graduate and a Candidate for state office in USA i am compelled to offer my opinions for the benefit of some in the USA , about the amazing events occurring here in Asia, and to offer my valid opinion for the sake of the leaders and any interested in knowing me here. In the end i'll tell you why i am in Favor of the people and President Aquino; against his rivals and opponents here and yet that i am also in favor of every sovereign nation such as North Korea to have the rights of Progress that other nations have enjoyed. As usual i'll tell you that i'm Against War and in favor of peace and human dignity everywhere.

It was Thomas Jefferson who said "I'd rather have Newspapers without a nation than a nation without newspapers", and i guess that's what seperates free countries from autocratic regimes. I myself worked for the Nashville Banner, of Tennessee, (in USA) from the time i was 16 yrs old (delivering newspapers on a rural route in Lawrence County). Yet, though i enjoy the opportunity, i keep in mind that all news is biased and that the press can be an instrument of dictatorship and indoctrination just as it can be used for positive education and liberation. Here, in passing i will also mention the local television stations and recent programs revisiting the 'Fall of Bataan' as commemorated on the Monday following Easter Sunday, here in 2012, as included dignitaries from Japan and the USA and included an excellent homage from President Aquino and the Philippine Honor Guard. It was a good practice and an excellent sight to behold. All Filipino Americans and anyone who loves the pinay as i do can be proud of the ceremony they staged on that peninsula this past Monday.

While this was viewing on one Channel the Vice- President of Philippines was on a different local channel and with a different message and, (though i have not mastered Tagalog) their is a rift if not opposition between him and the president, here. I'm uncertain as to how the office of VP is elected here but the adds and shirts i see on the street say 'Aquino and Roxas', rather, and i believe there will be a presidential election in 2013 though it seems very early, to me, in the Benigno 3 tenure. I have seen President Benigno S Aquino to be a man of Much Dignity, perseverence, endurance, and much compassion and good representation for his people. Even as there is said to be significant opposition to him among groups of the very poor (and i am usually much in favor of human rights). Fascism and class struggle are the largest prevailing sentaments here, as it long has been, perhaps more than anywhere else; and thus is the basis for the Aquino ;anti-corruption campaign that includes the current, ongoing, legal prosecution of a former Philippine president now incarcerated, along with the sitting supreme Court Justice that she had appointed within her tenure.

A large issue today is the split in opinion and whether the VP here is in favor of the Aquino anti-corruption campaign as it is now processing. I very much have to side with President Aquino, against the same style of fascism prevailent within the Marcos dictatorship (as supposedly assasinated his father and local favorite senator) and as indicative of the GMA regime; a fascist style autocracy and figure-headed by the sitting Supreme Court Justice here (a man accused of having property beyond his means as includes several lavish houses and condominiums around Manila and the Philippines Islands). I must side with the plight of 'anti- corruption' because my own life has been Ruined by fascist and lucre -loving Republican cronies working under the 'Marshal - Law' style of the Bush administration and local Tennessee cronies holding oligarchy Power. I myself have been been slighted in public elections (the most important charge being prosecuted against Gloria Macapagal Arojo) I myself am a victim of 'Election Sabotage' that was perpetrated by powerful wealthy Greedy incumbents that were in love with their own usurped power. It has been the same in every fascist regime among people whom Love money and are blinded by their own greed, as to all the people it hurts and good opportunity it ruins, just like they have ruined my life and the good i could have done for others (much good among people who needed and wanted me).

Corruption ruins countries and the perpetrators cannot see that because they don't have the mental building blocks to understand it. Fascism is a Trait; a human trait much different than benevolence and Love. peace