Ripping Off A Farmers’ Market? Jail Is Too Good For This Guy

Like most of us, I don’t like crooks. Especially crooks who rip off the deserving. Rip off Larry Ellison? I don’t like it but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. But ripping off a farmers’ market? How low can you get? Really.

Well, it took an elected official to demonstrate how low. A Glendale city councilman is headed to jail for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the local farmers’ market over a number of years. Thank God they caught him but this is one of those cases that makes you start wondering if our justice system hasn’t overly restricted itself.  In the words of Gilbert and Sullivan-actually Gilbert-

“My object all sublime I shall achieve in time: to make the punishment fit the crime..”

I don’t know what punishment would fit this crime (a diet of rotten vegetables? ) but your submssions are welcome. We read about scumbags all the time but I know folks who sell at our farmers’ markets and I know how hard they work. Sorry for bending your ear, but this one really got to me.

 

6 thoughts on “Ripping Off A Farmers’ Market? Jail Is Too Good For This Guy

  1. I suspect that the Glendale incident is the tip of the iceberg.

    I work as a vendor at some San Diego Farmers Markets. Each is run differently of course but most of them are “sponsored” by a school or a merchant association. As such, they operate on a mix of private and public land.

    The sponsoring group has the right to operate the market and normally finds someone to run the market, the market manager. The market manager works hard at every aspect of the market. This includes finding vendors, dealing with area merchants, residents, vendors and market visitors. Often they also book entertainment and deal with marketing. They also often have to police certain aspects of the market, which can mean the bossier types often get the job as market managers.

    Normally they are paid but some volunteer.

    Each one collects the money from the Vendors. Some give receipts, others do not. It is always done with cash. Plus, often Farmer’s are expected to give a percentage of sales instead of a definitive rent amount. And this is where I think the problem is.

    Without a fairly strict guidelines of checks and balances done by the “sponsoring: group, the temptation of skimming a small amount of cash off the top would be ever present for the market manager. many market managers wouldn’t dream of doing this but others may, especially given that they do do a lot of work with not much thanks and a lot of complaints.

    Next, assuming that the market Manager is completely honest and/or there is a good system in place that makes it difficult to forget to include all the rent money collected, then who is checking the system administrators. Meaning, who is checking the association?

    Keep in mind, the administrators of these associations are often not volunteers but long term employees. Employees not making a great deal of money I would imagine. Some of these people even started the associations in the first place and have surrounded themselves with a group of board members they are friends with.

    I wouldn’t think board members of the associations would often have the time or inclination to double check the administration. Plus, given power structures, one does not want to piss off the administration of your merchant’s association or school, so this is another spot where money could go missing, especially since it is cash. So unless the Market Manager keeps receipts on what is collected AND there is someone who compares these records with what is actually claimed, it would be difficult to catch someone intent on skimming from Farmers markets proceeds.

    If someone like me merely suggests the flaw in the system (I’ve done it) the consequences are swift and unpleasant. People don’t like it when their honesty is questioned and I don’t blame them. However, I’ve experienced how power corrupts, even people with good intentions initially.

    I hope someone will step up and demand transparent policies and procedures regarding Farmer’s markets, including weekly publicly accessible financial statements so the public is free to check on their own Farmer’s markets.

  2. A search of
    http://www.glendalenewspress.com/search/dispatcher.front?Query=Glendale+Councilman+John+Drayman&target=adv_article

    reveals 179 articles that came to light because of a gadfly paying attention. Behind closed doors, with a dearth of investigative journalism, these people are needed but mostly ignored. Reminds me of the David Elsebush and spouse Penny Elsebush. Junk bond high interest school financing scandal, etc.

    Some tidbits…

    Revenue from the association’s Harvest Market skyrocketed after the arrest of former city Councilman John Drayman, who allegedly embezzled at least $304,000 from the farmers market.

    From By Arin Mikailian, arin.mikailian@latimes.com
    March 7, 2014 | 6:38 p.m.

    Some seem to agree that the punishment does not fit the crime…

    Some Montrose business owners expressed disappointment with the sentence former Councilman John Drayman has agreed to receive, calling the one-year deal he reached with prosecutors insufficient for his crimes.

    “I don’t think the sentence fits the crime,” said Ken Grayson, owner of Grayson’s Tune Town and board member of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn., the business promotions group that Drayman stole from for seven years. “I think it should have been more severe, especially after all the embarrassment that was caused to both the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. and the city of Glendale because he was a public official.”

    By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
    March 13, 2014 | 4:49 p.m.

    Here was the spark…

    At a time when so few people are really informed, the news media is declining and government too often does the public business in private, the gadflies who haunt City Council meetings and demand information from officials have an important role to play.

    By Ron Kaye
    June 10, 2011 | 6:07 p.m.

    Yes, it took a few years to get to this point this month this year.

    • Weren’t the Elsebusch’s great? I still have them in all my directories because I can bear to erase them. As messed up as things are around here I agree we need all the gadflies we can get.

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