B104.7 Mentioned in NY State Fair Probe

August 31, 2010 by

New info added 9/1 - SYRACUSE -- Clear Channel country station B104.7 (WBBS) and "a Syracuse-area television weatherman" are mentioned in a report by the New York State Inspector General's Office regarding allegations of corruption against former New York State Fair Director Peter Cappuccilli, Jr. and other past and present Fair officials.

The Attorney General's office has reportedly issued subpoenas to several businesses including Clear Channel Radio, after the IG's report detailed circumstances in which Fair officials forced B104.7 to move its B-Jam concert from the Fairgrounds to Onondaga Lake Park in 2004.

The Inspector General's 147-page report (PDF) accuses Cappuccilli of costing New York State nearly $44,000 in rental fees by "blocking out" four buildings on the State Fairgrounds in order to host his daughter's wedding reception there in 2004. Those areas include the Center of Progress Building, the International Building, the Horticulture Building and Chevrolet Court.

Starting on page 52 (of the PDF file, page 45 if you're going by the numbers printed on the pages), the Inspector General explains that Clear Channel had reserved Chevy Court for June 19, 2004, to host its B-Jam concert. But when that turned out to be the same date as Cappuccilli's daughter's wedding, Clear Channel was informed that their reservation was cancelled.

From the report:

[Then-Assistant Fair Director Michael] Sommers ordered the Fair’s Exhibition and Events Manager to remove from the calendar the B-Jam event, a country music concert featuring various performers which had been scheduled for the same date as the Cappuccilli wedding reception. A Clear Channel radio station had sponsored the annual B-Jam on a weekend in June for several years at the Chevy Court pavilion on the Fairgrounds and typically attracted approximately 8,000 people. The Fair’s Exhibition and Events Manager advised the Inspector General, “I felt kind of bad to have to say [to Clear Channel], you can’t have your event here.” Witnesses told the Inspector General that B-Jam would have disturbed the wedding reception, as it was a music show that lasted all day and into the evening. “There would be commotion,” said one Fair employee. In simple terms, Cappuccilli had an event canceled that would have earned the state money in return in lieu of his daughter’s wedding reception, which did not earn the State Fair any money, and, to the contrary, cost the state substantial funds.

A Clear Channel official interviewed by the Inspector General recalled being informed by the Fair that there was a scheduling “conflict” and “they could not accommodate us on that Saturday night [June 19, 2004] and there was something, too, about not being able to move in.” While he did not know what the “conflict” was, he later heard that Cappuccilli’s wedding was held that day, so he assumed that the wedding was the scheduling conflict. Asked directly whether he thought the wedding was the conflict, the Clear Channel official laughed and said, “Yeah. Yes.” He commented, “I didn’t pass judgment on that. I just said, ‘Okay, well, it wasn’t available.’” The event was moved to the Onondaga Lake State Park despite the fact that the Fairgrounds remained Clear Channel’s “first choice.” B-Jam returned to the Fair in 2005, but due to the economy, it was canceled for 2009.

The report then includes a scan of the Fair's planning calendar from June 2004, where, if you zoom in enough, you can see that "B-Jam" was written on June 19, then later erased.

The Inspector General's report then explains that the 2003 B-Jam generated $17,786 in revenue to New York State: the rental of Chevy Court cost over $8,200 and the rest came from the state's commission on revenue from concessions of food, beer and other vending.

The report's final sentence on the B-Jam incident reads, "the Inspector General attempted to interview Cappuccilli about the 2002 and 2004 wedding receptions he hosted at the State Fair, but he refused to be interviewed on the grounds that his answers could implicate him criminally."

The identity of the "Clear Channel official" interviewed for the investigation is not named in the report.

Questionable Forecasts-for-Tickets Trade

Added 9/1: On page 115 of the PDF file (or 109 if you're going by the printed page numbers in the document), the IG's office says a local TV weatherman used to receive free concert tickets in exchange for custom fair forecasts:

Current Fair Public Relations Director Fred Pierce provided another example of how LaGuardia misused reviewer tickets. Pierce testified that prior to the 2008 Fair, he was contacted by a Syracuse-area television weatherman, who told him that LaGuardia used to give him free concert tickets in exchange for faxing him daily weather reports. Obviously, LaGuardia could have simply turned on a radio or television to obtain the same information, rather than giving away tickets, each with a face value of around $30 to $50. Pierce added that he has received numerous similar calls from people seeking free concert tickets as they had received in the past. Pierce posited that LaGuardia had many “you wash my back, I’ll wash yours” deals.

The report doesn't identify the weatherman either, as it doesn't appear the weatherman committed any wrongdoing by making the offer or receiving the tickets.  Rather, the report focuses on questioning LaGuardia's decision to approve the arrangement.

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