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UPDATED: Only Months Before Scrutiny Began, Karen Prasser Received Excellent Review

Karen Prasser's two performance reviews on file in Solon City Hall, while not perfect, paint the picture of an employee who city leaders felt had reshaped the Solon Center for the Arts in a positive way.

UPDATE: Solon Patch has obtained a copy of another performance review for Karen Prasser.

This review, conducted by Mayor Susan Drucker for Prasser's performance from January until December 2011, shows that as of early 2012 Prasser was viewed by the administration as an excellent employee who used her talents -- and the help of the Friends nonprofit group -- to take the Solon Center for the Arts to new heights.

That was only a few months before Prasser came under scrutiny from city officials about her management of the center and the fact that Prasser's secretary was managing the books for a nonprofit group that fundraised for the center's programs. That sort of mingling of government and private money was against rules, according to a May 2012 memo from Finance Director Dennis Kennedy.

The scrutiny ended in September when Prasser wrote a long, impassioned letter to save her job. She resigned with a one-sentence letter a few days later.

READ: The Memos At the Center of the Arts Center Controversy

In the latest performance review, Drucker writes about Prasser: "Your initiation of corporate sponsors is a creative way to help your revenues while promoting Solon businesses. Also continue working with the Friends as you come up with new ideas to raise funds and draw attention to the center."

Click the PDFs to the right to read three of Prasser's performance reviews, including the latest one.

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Karen Prasser, the former executive director of the Solon Center for the Arts, is under scrutiny by city investigators for the way she managed employee time cards and the department's perhaps too-close financial relationship with the non-profit Friends of the Solon Center for the Arts group.

But two performance reviews conducted by Prasser's bosses during her time as executive director painted a positive picture of an employee who transformed the arts center's programs through hard work and dedication. The reviews are public records, and were obtained by Solon Patch through request of the city.

The reviews of Prasser, conducted in 2004 and 2011, are the only ones on file with the Solon human resources department, according to the city.

What the reviews provide are a snapshot of what Prasser's bosses thought about her performance at those times. They do not illuminate what happened since that could have ultimately led to her resignation in September and the subsequent announcement that the arts center was under investigation.

While the city has not commented on whether Prasser's resignation and the investigation are linked, a report in the Chagrin Solon Sun said that city officials had some issues with Prasser's management prior to her resignation.

There is some constructive criticism in the reviews, mostly along the lines of communicating better with city council and not becoming frustrated when initiatives don't work out. But both reviews are largely positive.

The 2011 review, conducted by Mayor Susan Drucker, focused on Prasser's performance in 2010. The 2004 review was conducted by Recreation Director Don Holub.

In the 2011, Drucker writes: "Karen has developed the Solon Center for the Arts into a high quality perfomering arts studio. Karen shoots for the stars with everything she tries to accomplish."

Drucker also writes positively about the Friends of the Solon Center for the Arts organization, calling the group "a great resource for the arts center."

Click the PDFs to the right of this article to read the performance reviews.

Harry December 04, 2012 at 07:31 PM
This isn't much of a story because the previous mayor seems to have let employees do whatever they wanted. But even Mayor Drucker appears to have turned a blind eye toward SCA for the first half of her term until someone blew the whistle to her. Look at the glowing 2011 review she gave Karen Prasser. Now what she seems to be doing borders on vindictive to everyone ever associated with SCA.
Chris Mazzolini (Editor) December 04, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Hi Harry: Thanks for your comment. The point of the story isn't to make big scoop. Since the city isn't talking about its investigation, us in the media are just trying to fill in the picture through public records so that our readers (the taxpayers and voters) can be as informed as possible about what's happening at the arts center.
Harry December 04, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Thanks, Chris. I meant no offense by that. The city has been its own worst enemy up until now. That's why I keep saying that whatever they have on Prasser et al better be good. My main point was that even if her prior evaluations were positive if she committed serious fraud then they are all moot now.
Chris Mazzolini (Editor) December 04, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Hi Harry: No offense taken, and your point is valid. Ultimately, we'll have to see what the city says when their investigation is complete. Like I said in the article, these are just snapshots in time and don't explain anything that happened from the latest review until September or so.
Rocco December 05, 2012 at 04:17 PM
For someone who has a lot to say, that doesn't look like a letter of resignation that Ms. Prasser would write. And what's with the wrong date? Who wrote the letter?
ND December 05, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Clearly this was a forced resignation. The city administration is looking ridiculous here. Appointed a new leader with absolutely no Arts qualifications to run the department, backed away from the CAC grant, now returning other donor funds...unbelievable!
Harry December 05, 2012 at 10:34 PM
I've got to think they are on to something significant. All eight elected officials are saying nothing and, I believe, half of them are lawyers. They all cannot be so bumbling and fumbling.
Anne December 06, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Ed Kraus used to ooze praise for the arts center, now he's silent, We will learn what happened when the investigation is complete.
Rocco December 06, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Anne, you said it! I agree - the part about finding out what happened when this is all over. I think coucil has been told not to talk at all.

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