Investigators Focus On Arts Center Secretary's Work With Friends Group
For years, Karen Prasser's secretary helped manage the financial accounts for the non-profit Friends of the Solon Center for the Arts. It wasn't until May 2012 that city leaders put a stop to it.
From 2006 until her retirement in June 2012, Joan Long was secretary to Karen Prasser, the former director of the Solon Center for the Arts.
During that time, Long also helped manage the books of the Friends of the Solon Center for the Arts, a private nonprofit group that fundraises for the arts center's programs. Long also received checks from Friends, which Prasser said were only for re-imbursements, according to city documents.
That mix of public and private work by Long was not proper, city officials told Prasser in a May 2012 memo, and is now a key issue in the city's investigation of "irregularities" at the Solon Center for the Arts. (Read the memo attached at the right.)
After that May memo, Long had to give up the Friends duties. She retired at the end of June.
Prasser made no attempt to hide from city leaders the fact that Long was working closely with Friends and handling the group's money.
In early 2011, Prasser submitted to Solon's Human Resources Department a new job description for Long's position that included numerous mentions of the working relationship with Friends.
That proposed job description was obtained by Solon Patch. Dated January 14, 2011, the job description says that primary duties of the secretary would be to work closely with Friends, including managing accounts and promoting their activities. Read the proposed job description by clicking the PDF to the right of the article.
The job description reads:
"The Department Head Secretary is the administrative manager of the not for profit entity, Friends of Solon Center for the Arts, that serves as an advocacy and fundraising organization in support of the activities of SCA."
When asked about the job description this week, Human Resource Director Tom Cornhoff said that he didn't read it when was submitted in early 2011 and it was never approved.
Cornhoff said that only a couple of departments had submitted updated job descriptions and that he "never got around to looking at them."
He has since read the proposed job description and said it couldn't be approved because of the Friends activity, he said.
"There’s been talk about what should or shouldn’t be done by employees," he said. "Clearly, you can't do work for a nonprofit unless you have special approval."
There is no formal job description for the arts center department head secretary currently on file at City Hall.
When asked if members of the city administration knew that Long had been working so closely with Friends for years -- and when they ultimately discovered that fact -- Cornhoff said he couldn't answer those questions because of the ongoing investigation.
Questions by city officials about the Friends relationship and other issues led to Prasser's impassioned defense of the allegations against her in September. She resigned a couple of days later.
Soon after Prasser's resignation, the city announced it had launched an investigation.
City officials have not commented on the extent of their investigation or given any timetable for when they expect to announce any findings.