- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

A D.C. auditor's report on the financial accountability of Eastern Market accuses three city agencies of being "lazy" in their record keeping and violating a D.C. accounting law for four years.
According to the report, the Office of Property Management, The Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and the Office of Finance and Resource Management allowed $19,400 that should have gone to the Eastern Market Enterprise Fund to be "comingled" with the D.C. General Fund a violation of D.C. law.
In several cases, money was not collected or properly accounted for, said auditor Deborah K. Nichols in her report. And some payments were made without "proper authorization."
"Handling public funds in this manner is an unsound financial management practice that invites fraud, waste and abuse," Mrs. Nichols said in her report.
The enterprise fund, which is an interest-bearing account, was developed to cover the operating costs and upkeep of Eastern Market, on North Carolina Avenue and Seventh Stree SE. The fund uses fees and rent money paid by its vendors.
Mrs. Nichols indicated that her audit was hindered by poor accounting on the part of the property's management. She said the agency "could not verify the accuracy" of how much money should have been collected from vendors because the records were not maintained.
"The chief property management officer had not established an effective system of financial accountability from funds collected from Eastern Market operations," the report said.
The D.C. Council established a law to create the enterprise fund in 1998. The council sought to rein in mismanagement and put an end to more than two decades of vendors squabbling with the District in lawsuits over who was in charge of running the 130-year-old market.
Chad and Richard Glasgow, fish vendors whose family had run the market for decades, relinquished their control in January of the South Hall facility where fresh fish and produce are sold after losing a lengthy legal battle with the city.
Managers Stuart Smith and Bruce Cook took over South Hall in January and promised to spruce up the Capitol Hill landmark as part of an effort to reverse years of decline. But Mr. Bruce and Mr. Cook were supposed to take over the entire market.
Tim Dimond, property management officer, has had a tough time dealing with the remaining vendors, who are suing the city in a lawsuit to control the North Hall, where art, clothes and jewelry are sold.
"The North Hall case is still pending," Mr. Dimond wrote in his response to the audit.
As a result, he said, the North Market Gallery is required to deposit its funds into an account controlled by D.C. Superior Court, not the enterprise fund.
"Any monies currently collected by the 'market manager' of the North Hall cannot be considered," Mr. Dimond said.
Barbara Jumper, deputy CFO for finance and resource management, said her agency did not violate D.C. law by mixing enterprise funds with those of the general fund.
"The auditor's report failed to mention that the Eastern Market Enterprise Fund was established in September 1999," Mrs. Jumper said.
But the bank account was set up only a few months ago, a spokeswoman for property management said.
"The money goes to [Financial] resource management, and the fund has been set up, and the back interest for the years it wasn't in existence has been added," said Aimee Ochetti, spokeswoman for property management.

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