Peterborough Farmers Market president addresses missing money allegations; believes ‘accounting error’ the result

Peterborough Farmers Market board president Cindy Hope addresses missing money allegations and claims it was not the current board's doing.

According to documents forwarded to CHEX News, it appears $21,000 is unaccounted for at the Peterborough and District Farmers Market (PDFM).

The president of the board of directors, Cindy Hope, acknowledged the discrepancy and says the board is aware and is co-operating fully, launching full audits for the last three years but claims the reported missing funds has nothing to do with the current board.

“A discrepancy was brought forward to my attention and immediately, I took it to the board of the 2016 books,” said Hope. “And it’s important to know at that time, it was a different board. Sam McLean was president of the board at that time.”

In July, Astrid Manske, a vendor at the farmers market and operator of the Otonabee Apiary says she and other vendors became aware of an apparent discrepancy in the year-end financial statements for 2016, and she brought it forward in a letter.

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Manske addressed the letter to the PDFM board and hand-delivered copies to the treasurer at the time, Joe Steed, who has since resigned from his position and current board member Janet Laurie. Manske claimed $21,000 is unaccounted for and on behalf of the membership, she asked the board to review the matter.

Hope expects the audit results to come back later this month and will be presented to the membership. Local accounting firm McColl Turner who are completing the audits for the past three years had asked if Hope thought there could be fraud involved.

“No, we don’t believe there is,” said Hope. “We believe there has been a present error in reporting or carrying forward numbers, but of course, that’s up to the accounting firm to provide us with those details.”

A Peterborough Examiner report last week brought to light Hope’s checkered past.

Hope says some vendors are trying to make her look guilty by referencing her past mistakes — as she pleaded guilty to fraud after falsifying documents while employed at a Port Hope retirement residence between 1998-99.

“It’s important for me to make a statement that although I was coerced into perhaps, putting it in layman’s terms, fudging documents in the past,” said Hope. “As an employee, bringing that to the official’s attention was clearly a mistake and a mistake that I have repaired.”

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Hope says over the past two years, she has completed a police background check and no longer has a criminal record – but still, some vendors are still asking the City to get involved.

Letters have been forwarded to the mayor and the City asking them to intervene to help settle the dispute.

But Mayor Daryl Bennett says they are simply landlords in this case as the market is held at the city-owned Morrow Building.

“We have a relationship with a legal entity which is the farmers market,” said Bennett. “They have their own board and they have their own set of bylaws and own way of operating.

“Some people are a bit confused as to what role the City plays in that but the City does not run the market, the City did not create the market, we are simply the landlord for the market.”

Seven vendors will be allowed to plead their case to keep its membership at a special market meeting being held next Monday.

A petition by 16 members is seeking to evict the seven vendors including Circle Organics, McLean Berry Farm, Gaelic Garlic, Chef Marshall Eckler, Necessitea Elix, Finest Gourmet Fudge and Ontonabee Apiary — citing behaviour deemed detrimental to the market.