A letter from Hamilton Farmers’ Market manager Donna Lee Macdonald to merchants yesterday confirmed the City believes money was siphoned from vendors.

Macdonald asked merchants at the Market to cooperate with the ongoing police investigation if contacted by detectives.

Shane Coleman (no relation to reporter), of the Hamilton Farmers’ Market Stallholders Association, expressed disappointment at the news saying “We contacted the City in 2009 about financial indiscrepancies that started in 2005. To learn that this fraud started in 2005 as well, we’re very concerned.”

Coleman says prior to 2004, the Market never lost money and merchants have been asking questions ever since the Market started reporting a lost in 2005.

He wonders if the City had listened to their concerns, could the fraud be found years sooner.

Coleman says market staff collect cash payments from daily vendors who rent space in the Market and from merchants for utilities.

The Market has been the centre of political debate at City Hall for the past two years since it returned to its home location after renovations. City Council has started the process of exploring privatization to stem losses at the Market which has required a subsidy of approximately $240,000 per year since renovations.

Based on upon the City’s rent per square foot, yearly rent revenue for the Market should be $528,625.50.

A request for comment and for Market financial statements has been made to the City.

The City is not commenting on this letter or further commenting on the fraud, citing the ongoing police investigation.

Full Letter

Dear Vendor Community

Recently the City advised that a long-term employee was found to have committed theft from the City of Hamilton. That employee no longer works for the City, and the matter has been referred to the Hamilton Police Service for the theft of funds. The period of investigation may go back as far as 2005. If any Market vendor is contacted by the police to assist in their investigation, we encourage your cooperation. Market staff will also be fully cooperating with the investigation.

Donna Lee Macdonald
Hamilton Farmers’ Market