Columbia's downtown director's parking habits under fire

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

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.


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Charles Dudley Jr April 14, 2009 | 4:57 a.m.

Sounds like Mr Fagan is up against the good ole people's network of the SBD in this city.

Good luck in your fight sir.

Mr Fagan has posted many blog entries on this in the Trib over time.

(Report Comment)
Clara Allen April 14, 2009 | 7:39 a.m.

This reeks of the same attitude that allowed Hank Waters to orchestrate 'country club gate.' Isn't Gartner special? Seriously Arnie............... the rules don't apply to her.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin April 14, 2009 | 7:51 a.m.

Pix related to this story are here:

(Report Comment)
Sandy Matthew April 14, 2009 | 8:15 a.m.

Only in Columbia, MO.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance April 14, 2009 | 9:19 a.m.

Sounds like the good ol' girl network to me. You lead by example ladies. Don't let the fact she is a woman blind you from the hypocrisy.

(Report Comment)
Sharon Small April 14, 2009 | 10:45 a.m.

How much time did you spend, dear Mr. Fagan, following Ms. Gartner to see where she parks?! Seriously, doesn't the SBD have better things to discuss?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 14, 2009 | 10:56 a.m.

>>> Tim Dance April 14, 2009 | 9:19 a.m.
Sounds like the good ol' girl network to me. You lead by example ladies. Don't let the fact she is a woman blind you from the hypocrisy. <<<

lol good ole girl network I love!

(Report Comment)
Tracy Greever-Rice April 14, 2009 | 1:36 p.m.

If you only ask people who agree with you, if they agree with you, they'll probably agree with you.


(Report Comment)
Mike Martin April 15, 2009 | 8:15 a.m.

None of the people interviewed for this article expressed even a peep of criticism over Gartner's transgressions, which apparently included repeatedly breaking SBD's own rules while at the same time emphasizing that members and their employs had to obey them.

Instead, they level all the criticism at Fagan, calling him "unprofessional," etc. In the face of such damning evidence (against Gartner), that's unfortunate, and may go to the level of dysfunction that has set into the downtown environment, which seems rife with Big Brother-ism (or is it Big Sister-ism) these days.

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox April 15, 2009 | 12:29 p.m.

As someone who gets fined when I break the parking laws downtown, I say impound her car. The Law is for everyone, not just the people who don't work for the government.

(Report Comment)

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