By Mary O’KEEFE
Representatives of the Montrose Shopping Park Association executive board have confirmed that they are the organization that contacted Glendale Police Department with suspicions of embezzlement concerning proceeds from the Harvest Market.
“Yes, we went to the Glendale police,” said MSPA President Alyce Russell.
The association decided to go public with the fact that they were the organization because of speculation from the public.
The Harvest Market, in its current form, began in 2002. Since its beginning the market has been in the red, which MSPA executive board members knew and accepted as standard operating procedure.
The market brought many people into the shopping park so the loss seemed to be equaled out by the traffic it brought to local businesses, said executive director Dale Dawson.
The path to a police investigation was traveled through a series of events that began with board members wanting to explore ways of improving the Harvest Market.
MSPA member Mary Dawson contacted nearby local Farmer’s Markets to get information on how they were handling their losses. She assumed that these types of markets were for the most part running in the red.
“They made money,” Mary said.
That was the first thing that made executive board members question their own market practice.
For years John Drayman had been part of the inner workings of the Harvest Market. He, along with Jeff Decker and Mark Sheridan, were in charge of collecting and reporting the receipts to the MSPA.
The money is collected from food vendors including fruit and vegetable booths. The area that is called “Thieves Market,” which is the flea market area of the Sunday event, also pays a fee per booth.
According to Drayman, the money from the food booths was collected by Sheridan and the flea market proceeds were collected by Decker. The money was then given to Drayman who then turned the funds along with the receipts into Dawson who made the deposit.
The problem, according to Dawson, was when the receipts and money were not turned in in a timely manner.
Because of the delay in paperwork and payments, the executive board voted to develop new procedures of collecting the Harvest Market payments.
The first week the new procedures were in place the money from the market vendors more than tripled, said Maureen Palacious, MSPA treasurer.
The following weeks continued with an increase in receipts. That is when the board became concerned about the extreme difference in proceeds.
They spoke with Drayman but were unsatisfied with his explanation.
Speaking for the board, Russell took responsibility for not keeping a closer eye on the finances concerning the Harvest Market.
“Once we realized something was wrong we went to the police and let them take it over,” Russell said.
Drayman said the increase in the Market’s revenues was a trend that began before the new procedures were in place.
Glendale police began an investigation and served a search warrant on Drayman’s residence.
The investigation is continuing.
The decision to go to the police with their concerns, although all agree was the correct one, was still not easy.
Drayman has done so much for Montrose, Dawson said.
It has been difficult for both Drayman and the MSPA. Many in the community have chosen sides and rumors abound.
Going to the police was not the easiest path but it was the right thing to do, Russell said.
But beyond the investigation the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. is looking at positive revenues from the Harvest Market and is hoping to turn that new found funding into new events.
The MSPA meetings are on the first Thursday of every month and Russell said all the shopping park members