by Andrew Crisp
UPDATE: Thursday, Sept. 6, 3 p.m.
Boise Weekly caught up with Capital City Public Market board members Kurtis Williams and Treasurer Heather Hall-Dudney, elected to serve by the market's 179 vendors, about the decision to remove founder Karen Ellis from her role as executive director. Ellis said she gave "full disclosure" to the board and its members about the financial dealings of the market.
Williams said that wasn't entirely true.
"The market’s been growing for 18 years, but really just three years ago, we were finally able to get her to help us have a budget for the market. Now, for the past three years, we’ve had a budget, and this year, we implemented QuickBooks, which actually tracks where every penny goes," said Williams. "I was president for eight of those years. We fully trusted her, she ran the market, and said she was doing everything legally and in accordance."
The board felt that Ellis' handling of those finances was not appropriate.
"All the employees were being, in fact, paid cash from our former executive director’s company, Random Productions," said Hall-Dudney.
According to Williams and Hall-Dudney, it was the first time employees began paying payroll taxes.
"We did not have all our ducks in a row," said Hall-Dudney. "There was more lacksadaisacal bookeeping. Now we have a bookeeper and accountant and a lawyer needed for a more professional entity."
Now, the market's operations will be more transparent, according to Hall-Dudney. The market is also seeking official 501(c)(6) status with the Internal Revenue Service, after re-incorporating the Capital City Public Market.
Karen Ellis issued a statement saying, "To my knowledge, one of the accusations had to do with an investigation by the Industrial Commission."
“This is a significant move for the market,” said Board President Mike Goulder in a statement released by the Capital City Public Market.
ORIGINAL POST: Wednesday, Sept. 5, 3:02 p.m.
Karen Ellis, the founder of Boise's Capital City Public Market, has been let go by the market's nine-member board of directors over accusations of poor business practices.
"I’m very sad about that news," Ellis told Boise Weekly. "I’ve truly enjoyed being the founder of that market and watching it grow and continually grow over the years. The accusations regarding mismanagement—there was none. I’ve made full discolosure of everything and they approved all the management of the market."
Board members told the Idaho Statesman that sloppy record-keeping, poor accounting, poor business practices and failure to pay employee taxes were the reasons behind firing Ellis. The board voted unanimously to remove Ellis, citing a lack of confidence in her ability to manage the market.
The market's books are now in order, members said. Ellis disagreed with the board's accusations.
"I was rather shocked about the termination, but I am proud to have accomplished what I did," said Ellis. "I believe that the market has grown under my leadership, I believe that’s a very obvious factor. I think the growth would speak to the management of the market. I’ve worked with many boards over the years and with full disclosure."
Ellis supervised the inaugural Capital City Public Market, which took place in the 8th Street Marketplace in 1994. Since then, the weekly summertime markets have grown to attract thousands of visitors and nearly 200 vendors.
Board member Kurtis Williams told the Statesman that Ellis' role as business manager wasn't fulfilling the long-term goals of the market. He said the board "rubber-stamped" Ellis' decisions.
"The most vocal member of the board that is making those claims has actually been on that board for nine years and has been president for six years," said Ellis. "He was fully aware of everything, with full disclosure."
Lisa Duplessie, assistant director, will serve as interim director for the time being.