City seeks info from market

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WALLA WALLA — City officials are investigating aspects of the recent controversy surrounding the Walla Walla Valley Farmers’ Market.

In a letter dated Sept. 4, City Manager Nabiel Shawa wrote his office had “received numerous complaints on the operation and management of the Walla Walla Valley Farmers’ Market. The allegations are of such a serious nature that I am compelled to investigate the merits of the complaints.”

The letter went on to state the contract between the city and market — which operates on leased land at Fourth Avenue and Main Street — gives city officials the right to inspect market records.

In his letter, Shawa asked market Manager Beth-Aimee McGuire to provides lists and contact names for all vendors who sold in 2012, proof of liability insurance for those vendors, copies of the market’s city-approved rules and the name of the city official who approved those rules.

Shawa said today market staff provided him part of the requested material.

“The response, while it was appreciated, does not detail the information that I am seeking in compliance with the city’s contract with them, especially some of the financial vendor information that I requested. So I am still pushing,” Shawa said.

The controversy surrounding the market deals, in part, with longtime vendor Antoinette LaRondelle of Antoinette’s Mediterranean Catering, whose business was temporarily kicked out of the market after county health-code violations.

Those violations have since been rectified and the business reinstated at the market.

Other issues remain, including questions about how the market is managed, accessibility of board members, fair competition and why the market is a for-profit business instead of a nonprofit.

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