Friday, June 15, 2001

Findlay Market manager resigns




By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The manager of Findlay Market has resigned after an internal city of Cincinnati audit alleged he failed to deposit $8,100 in funds, to track rents owed by vendors and to monitor parking.

        Tom Jackson, manager of the historic outdoor market, blamed a heavy workload and change in city procedures for his decision to store checks and cash in an unlocked office file cabinet.

        City Manager John Shirey called the actions a case of mismanagement and decided to change leadership instead of allowing Mr. Jackson to oversee the $3 million renovation of the Over-the-Rhine market.

        “He was entrusted with responsibility, and he didn't do his job,” Mr. Shirey said. “There is evidence here of much mismanagement.”
       

Long hours

       

        Mr. Jackson tells a different story. He said he spent long hours handling market operations, preparing for the renovation and even writing a master development plan for the impoverished Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

        It was too much work for one person, he said: “I had way too many balls in the air.”

        Nevertheless, Mr. Jackson admits he should have paid closer attention to the mounting stacks of cash and checks in his office.

        “This is something that should have been handled in a more timely manner,” he said.

        The October 2000 audit by the city's finance department also found:

        • Some rents were not collected from market vendors.

        • Twelve parking permits were unaccounted for.

        • Parking policies at Findlay Market were not enforced, costing the city revenue.
       

New procedures

        Despite the findings, Mr. Shirey said, there was no evidence of any criminal activity. The city will adopt new procedures recommended by the finance department when it selects a new contractor and market manager.

        One reason Mr. Jackson said he didn't deposit the checks and cash on time from February 1999 to July 2000 was that nobody reminded him. Before 1999, a city worker in the treasury department routinely called requesting the funds and additional reports.

        “The lack of requests from treasury, and the near-total lack of interest on the part of the economic development management for operational issues at Findlay Market, allowed me to defer action on the deposit” while catching up on other tasks, Mr. Jackson wrote in response to the city audit.

        Mr. Jackson added that former Economic Development Director Andi Udris' promise to hire him an e assistant never was realized.

        One-third of positions in the economic development department are unfilled. Evonne Kovach, hired as the department's director last November, resigned this week, citing too much bureaucracy and lack of independence.

       



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