The committee, which was formed in early 2012, did admit that without legal authority, it relied on voluntary cooperation based on available documents and seven interviews.

"The committee recognized that while it could be helpful to interview the parties suggested by Director Ellis, it was not really practical," the report states. "The committee had no ability to compel anyone to speak with the committee, nor compel complete veracity."

Ellis said while he appreciated the committee's work, a majority of the Fair Board at the time of the sale process felt the fairgrounds should be sold.

"That's a philosophical position," he said. "We believed that the private sector, be it a nonprofit corporation or an investment management firm, would better and more efficiently" operate the property.

"To this day, I believe that," he added.

Berardino said some of the board may have been well-intentioned in its effort, but he disagreed with the notion of privatized state fair.

"Most of this stuff is political, and politics is an inside game," he said. "Anybody who doesn't think it's an inside game, they're kidding themselves … there are people that play in the game and people that don't. I'm one that does, and I'll admit it."

Berardino, who is also general manager of the Orange County Employees Assn., called the fairgrounds sale an opportunity for "money to be made … people want to be upset over the word 'laundering.' They'll be upset, 'cause that's exactly what happened. Money was laundered by these people. Period."

He said if opponents, including Ackerman, want to sue, "Let's have it, cause I'd love to get started giving depositions."

McCrary, a former chief of the Los Alamitos Police Department, said it will be an ethical responsibility of fairgrounds CEO Jerome Hoban and the Fair Board to monitor future contracts.

"Transparency is what makes good government … and that's really what we're recommending: a lot of transparency," he said.

Twitter: @bradleyzint