Arabo appointed to another state board after his court-ordered $248,000 repayment to nonprofit he worked for

Del Mar Fairgrounds
Del Mar Fairgrounds
(San Diego Union Tribune)

Gov. Newsom announced last week that Arabo will serve on the board of directors for the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which oversees the Del Mar Fairgrounds


Mark Arabo has been appointed to the board of directors at the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the governor announced on Aug. 11.

It’s the second time Arabo, president and CEO of Refined Management, has been appointed to a board by Gov. Gavin Newsom since a judge ordered Arabo to pay back $248,000 in unjustified bonus and expense payments to a nonprofit he worked for. Neither appointment required confirmation by the state Senate.

Arabo, a Democrat who is well known in San Diego’s Chaldean community, said in a statement that he is “deeply honored” to join the board.

“The Fair holds a special place in the hearts of our community members, and I am committed to contributing my experience and love of San Diego to ensure its continued growth and success. I remember spending my year as a kid going to the county fair,” Arabo said. “Now, I bring my children to it. Being appointed as one of the representatives for this treasured San Diego event feels like a full circle moment for me. I sincerely appreciate Governor Newsom for his continued commitment to our State and the cultural significance that our county fair holds.”

According to the governor’s website, Arabo has been president and CEO of Refined Management since 2015. The company provides consultation and management for small- to medium-sized U.S. manufacturing businesses.

Before that, Arabo served as president and CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association from 2008 to 2015. A lawsuit stemming from his time in that role ended with a judge ordering Arabo to reimburse the association for $248,000 in unjustified bonus and expense payments.

The bonus was a $210,000 finder’s fee paid to Arabo after the sale of NMA’s building, “even though he was not a broker on the transaction or otherwise entitled to this compensation,” the court ruled. The expenses were $38,000 in travel and costs not associated with the nonprofit.

“Arabo treated the NMA, a non-profit mutual benefit corporation, as his own personal bank account,” Superior Court Judge Richard E.L. Strauss wrote in a 41-page ruling. “He misused the NMA credit card, lied to the board to justify a $210,000 bonus, lied to obtain a $38,000 ‘expense reimbursement,’ oversaw the unlawful transfer of $100,000 from the NMA Education Foundation and used it for non-charitable purposes, and undertook a tax-avoidance scheme with respect to his ‘personal expense account.’”

An appeals court ruled against Arabo in 2021 and upheld the Superior Court ruling that he had to pay the money back.

Arabo was traveling and not available for comment before publication, his spokesperson said.

In 2019, two years after the Superior Court ruling, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Arabo to the California Workforce Development Board, which oversees state workforce training and education programs. The governor’s press office did not directly respond to questions from the Union-Tribune at that time about whether Newsom knew about the court case and findings against Arabo.

The governor’s press office did not provide comment about Arabo’s appointment to the fair board before publication.

Arabo was also on the marketing and sales team for Anheuser-Busch from 2004 to 2006.

The nine members of the fair board, who are all appointed by Newsom, oversee the annual San Diego County Fair, horse racing and other activities at the state-owned fairgrounds. The board member positions are unpaid.

In response to a question about whether there are any concerns about Arabo joining the fair board after the court findings, 22nd DAA spokesman Tristan Hallman said in an email only that the organization is “grateful” for the appointment and looks forward to working with him.