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Shopping park in financial mess

Collection of fees for weekly street market haphazard, with revenues taking unexplained dip.

May 27, 2011|By Melanie Hicken melanie.hicken@latimes.com
  • Candace Ramos, of Whittier, shops for nectarines at the Jama Farm stand in Montrose at the Harvest Market on Honolulu Avenue on Sunday, August 29, 2010. (Tim Berger/News-Press)
Candace Ramos, of Whittier, shops for nectarines at the…

MONTROSE — Weeks before Glendale police launched an investigation into allegations that former City Councilman John Drayman had embezzled money from a local organization, the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. began to ratchet up financial oversight of its Sunday farmers market, records and interviews show.

The board of directors on April 7 created a “Harvest Market Oversight Committee,” according to minutes of the meeting. In recent weeks, market vendors say they were briefed on a new procedure for the collection and recording of their weekly cash payments.

And on Tuesday, the board voted to hold a special closed session meeting next week to review the Harvest Market budget and operating procedures.

Board members for the association either could not be reached or declined requests for interviews. And Glendale police, who served a search warrant on Drayman’s condominium on May 17, have declined to divulge the organization involved in the investigation.

The weekly market, which was organized and championed by a small group of Montrose tenants, including Drayman, who say it attracts new business to the area, has become a financial black hole for the shopping park association.

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For years it has operated in the red, costing thousands more to produce than it brought in. Organizers have defended it as generating additional foot traffic. But many tenants along Honolulu Avenue say it competes with their own businesses or at best doesn’t help, since many of the shops there aren’t open on Sundays.

Until recently, the association’s financial woes were deepening. As of March 3, the market had brought in an average of roughly $600 per week and was forecast to have an annual loss of $52,000, according to a treasurer’s report. In 2007, the market was bringing in more than $1,500 on average each week.

But that all changed shortly after the new oversight committee was created. Suddenly, reported revenues spiked. While a treasurer’s report was not available for April or May, market manager Mark Sheridan said April 10 and 17 were the best revenue generators of the year.

Even Drayman, in an April 17 email to a News-Press reporter, referred to the rise in reported revenues as a “strange, but really terrific” event.

He did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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