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Bjorklund's Past Successful, Yet Controversial

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Board members said Bjorklund's history of boosting horse-racing revenues was a big draw. Board members said Bjorklund's history of boosting horse-racing revenues was a big draw.
Bjorklund had experience with construction. This was a major plus. Bjorklund had experience with construction. This was a major plus.
The News On 6 went to Big Splash to get a reaction to Bjorklund's firing, but was turned away with no comment. The News On 6 went to Big Splash to get a reaction to Bjorklund's firing, but was turned away with no comment.

Rick Bjorklund was the CEO of the fairgrounds since June of 2006. News On 6 anchor Jennifer Loren reports he has overseen many successful projects at the fairgrounds, but Bjorklund's short stint in Tulsa has not been without controversy. In fact, it was a past relationship with Big Splash's owners that had many asking why he was hired in the first place.

Tulsa Fair Board members voted unanimously to hire Rick Bjorklund in 2006. Board members said Bjorklund's history of boosting horse-racing revenues was a big draw. Fair Meadows was not making the money the county had hoped.

Plus, Bjorklund had experience with construction. This was a major plus when Vision 2025 and 4 to Fix the County monies were being spent on construction at Tulsa's fairgrounds.

But, at that time questions were raised about the possible ethical implications of Bjorklund's history with the Murphy family.

The Murphy's own Big Splash water park and operate the midway at the Tulsa State Fair, among other state fairs, one of which, Bjorklund managed for several years.

The News On 6 went to Big Splash to get a reaction to Bjorklund's firing, but was turned away with no comment.

Here's what Loretta Murphy said in a previous interview about her family's questioned relationship with Bjorklund and the unpaid rent they owe the county.

Reporter: "Mr. Bjorklund's relationship with the Murphy family goes back several years. Do you think that plays a factor in this?"

Murphy: "No."

Reporter: "Special favors perhaps?"

Murphy: "No, not at all. I don't feel like, you know... this is a business. He runs a big business. We run a business here and again I think our business could be misunderstood in a lot of ways. But, no, I know that's not the facts at all."

Bjorklund's two years with the fairgrounds were marred by storms, beginning with the 2006 microburst that left damaged roofs; leading to the 2007 ice storm that put Midway Construction months behind schedule.

Bjorklund worked with construction companies to cut delays. He pledged to have the midway ready for this fall's Arabian Horse Show. All the while he was overseeing contracts worth nearly $3 million for the naming rights of the fairgrounds' buildings.

But, in another controversy, Bell's Amusement Park was forced off the fairgrounds after Bjorklund recommended that their lease not be renewed.

And with these new developments, Robbie Bell wants more answers from the fair board about that unpaid rent and who was involved.

"This is not five people's playground. This belongs to the public and it needs to be treated with that kind of respect," said Robby Bell, who is the former Bell's Amusement Park owner.

Bjorklund also recently hired the fairgrounds COO Mark Andrus. Andrus was named acting CEO at Tuesday's meeting.


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