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After embezzlement and certification concerns, Montrose organization faces shake-up

After embezzlement and certification concerns, board members could face challenges in November election.

October 11, 2011|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

For the first time in years, leaders of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. face a potential shake-up as other business owners — upset with the handling of the weekly farmers market and other issues — begin staking out more active roles.

“People are getting more involved because they want progress,” said Sebu Chatoyan, owner of the Clothing Market.

The first test will be next month, when two of the association board members — President Alyce Russell and Treasurer Maureen Palacios — could face challengers in seeking reelection.

“I cannot remember the last time more than two people were on the ballot,” Executive Director Dale Dawson said. “It’s really just been an exercise.”

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The biggest gripe among members of the shopping park has been the handling of the Montrose Harvest Market. Glendale police are investigating concerns of embezzlement brought by board members after they noticed a spike in revenues from market vendors when stricter oversight rules were implemented.

Glendale police secured a search warrant for the condominium of former Councilman John Drayman — who had maintained an active role in the farmers market prior to the oversight rules — but have declined to comment on the investigation.

At a recent membership meeting, business owners questioned the board’s leadership abilities given the scope of potential embezzlement and other issues, including a certification snafu for the farmers market.

“It kind of shakes you up a little bit,” said Maron Atala, owner of Quiznos, referring to the revenue problems at the market.

For his part, Drayman said in an interview that laying the problems of the association at his feet was unfair.

“The fact of the matter is I haven’t served on the board in years. The only time I had interaction with them is at their request. When they were in trouble or they needed help they called me,” Drayman said. “It’s not like I was ever involved in any type of policy decision.”

Shopping park leaders tried to allay the concerns, pointing out that since cutting ties with Drayman, the association’s financial standing had improved.

“As you’ve noticed, since April we’ve made a lot of changes,” said Russell, referring to when Drayman and the group split.

Dawson also noted that the certification issues with the Montrose Harvest Market, and a warning from public health officials to do a better job of keeping pets out of the food sales area, have been fixed.

Despite the critiques, association leaders said they would welcome more involvement from business owners.

Board member Ken Grayson said attracting new members has long been a challenge, but that perhaps the dissension would change that.

“Sometimes through hardship, things bloom,” he said.

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