COLUMBIA — In a closed-door executive session Tuesday, Special Business District board members will discuss allegations that District director Carrie Gartner used metered parking spots multiple times after asking for them to be reserved for downtown customers.
Cool Stuff owner Arnie Fagan has said this is a violation of Gartner's employment handbook and has launched a public campaign calling for her removal. Fagan is using four photos he took of Gartner's car parked in metered spots as fodder.
"I've had enough," Fagan said. "I can't just sit here and see the hypocrisy day in and day out."
The hypocrisy Fagan is talking about stems from an e-mail the District sent to business owners asking them to restrict their employees from parking in street-side spots, which customers could use.
"Is there any reasonable person out there not offended by her hypocrisy?" Fagan asked in an e-mail addressed to "Downtown Columbia Stakeholders."
Mary Wilkerson, chairwoman of the Special Business District board, said the complaint would be dealt with Tuesday afternoon after the District's regularly scheduled meeting.
"We'll deal with this as a personnel issue," Wilkerson said. "I just felt like it was something that we, the board, needed to discuss."
Leigh Lockhart, who owns Main Squeeze, a downtown natural foods cafe, said she's not offended by Gartner's actions.
For Fagan, though, Gartner's parking transgressions are only the latest in a series of complaints he has about Gartner's leadership.
"I'm sick of her withholding information, manipulating data and telling mistruths," he said. "If you oppose her, she cuts you out of the process."
Fagan, a former Special Business District board member, has fought the district in the past over sign regulations and other matters. He said Gartner often fails to represent the interest and opinions of all business owners in the district and has instead advanced her own agenda.
Lockhart, who also serves of the District's board of directors, said Fagan is the only one complaining.
"As a business owner, I've been nothing but pleased with the job Carrie has done as executive director," she said.
Fagan, however, says there's nothing personal about it.
"I am her employer," Fagan said. "I am paying her wages with my business license fees and property taxes. And if I had rules of employment and had an employee continually violate those rules, I would get rid of 'em."
Gartner receives a parking pass for a city parking garage as part of her benefits.
"This is not right, and I'm telling everyone I can think of that this is not right," Fagan said, explaining why he felt the need to go public with his complaints.
Veronica Kramer, owner of Pen Point Paperie, and Laura Bullion, Bluestem Missouri Crafts owner, both raised concerns about how Fagan has handled the matter.
"I think this is the kind of thing that could have been handled as a discussion in an office," Bullion said.
Kramer added, "It's just unprofessional. It leaves a bad taste in people's mouths about the SBD."
But Fagan said he feels forced into publicly exposing examples of Gartner's "disregard for the rules of her employment." He explained that he has contacted members of the Special Business District board of directors in the past about the same issue, but the board members have been "unresponsive."
"By 'unresponsive' he really means we're not doing what he wants," Wilkerson said.
Gartner declined to comment on Fagan's letter, saying she wanted to focus on bigger issues, such as security, that affect downtown.