We may never know the real story of why the people in charge of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois State Fair are out after mere months. The administration is not talking, but fair manager Patrick Buchen is not going quietly.
He says the senior staff between Gov. Bruce Rauner and department heads does not seem to want to be challenged or contradicted.
"Come in and tell me where we're wrong" on attendance figures that show barely 400,000 came to the fair in Springfield in 2015, Buchen said. "800,000 last year was absolutely a fabrication. I think they lied about it. It's just that simple."
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Buchen's also taking shots at the governor's top staff, the ones who were supposed to oversee the work of himself and departing ag director Philip Nelson.
"Linda Lingle's from Hawaii. Never been to a harness race. Alec Messina doesn't know the difference between a boar and a barrow."
Buchen says Nelson was asked to resign and that Buchen was to be ousted next.
He says in addition to the attendance fiasco, the governor's office forced upon him the decision that USS Illinois sailors would be grand marshals, even though their work is not agricultural and none of them were from Illinois. Buchen's response was to create the title of "ag ambassadors" and give that distinction to the Springfield-area agribusiness leaders he wanted to be grand marshals.
Prize-winning livestock from the Sale of Champions tested positive for banned growth hormones, Buchen said, but he added he does not believe that was a factor in the decision to replace him or Nelson, calling it an annual problem. Buchen would not say which animals tested positive this year.