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Who collects rent for city still up in air

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An agreement that would assign responsibility to the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department for collecting and tracking of Commons tenant lease payments has yet to be approved nearly two months after the idea was proposed.

Redevelopment Commission attorney Stan Gamso told commission members Monday he drafted an agreement and sent it to City Attorney Jeff Logston but is still waiting for a response. Logston also represents the park board.

Tuesday, Logston said he has made some proposed revisions to Gamso’s draft and wants to go over them with the park board before getting back with Gamso. He estimated that will take a couple of more weeks. “I want to make sure everyone is comfortable with the terms,” Logston said.

Once Gamso and Logston reach an agreement, it will be presented to the redevelopment commission and park board for approval. That probably will be in April, Logston said.

The agreement that Gamso and Longston are crafting says that The Commons staff members, who are parks department employees, and Director of Business Services Jamie Brinegar are responsible for collecting Commons restaurant lease and utilities payments. The agreement also may formalize that the commission, the park board and The Commons board will receive monthly updates about Commons restaurant lease and utility payments, Logston said.

The lack of any formal agreement designating and accepting responsibility for collecting and tracking lease payments has been part of an ongoing dispute among the Columbus City Council, park board and the redevelopment commission for about

three months.

The controversy began in late December when city officials learned that former Commons tenant Snappy Tomato Pizza had not made any rent payments to the city during 2013 and owed $27,238, which included penalties for failing to pay on time.

Mayor Kristen Brown on Dec. 30 demoted Ben Wagner from parks director to marketing coordinator, accusing him of failing to have procedures in place that would have detected the missing Snappy Tomato rent payments. The demotion cut Wagner’s pay in half, from $79,471 to $40,883 per year. Then, in January, the Columbus City Council voted to zero out the director’s salary and move the money to the marketing coordinator position. Wagner has been paid the director’s salary since Jan. 17 as the council waits for a private legal opinion on the

mayor’s legal powers to demote a parks director and how much control a city park board has over the director position and parks employees.

While the agreement — suggested during a Jan. 27 meeting — is being worked out between Gamso and Logston, several boards have been receiving monthly updates on Commons lease payments through the parks department. Commons tenants Subway and Puccini’s are up to date on rent and utilities payments through March, Redevelopment Director Heather Pope said. She gave a short status update to redevelopment commission members Monday. The status of Commons lease payments also is reported at park board and Commons board meetings by Brinegar.

Parks department employees assemble a dashboard financial report that details monthly revenue and expenditures and specifically shows money received for Commons restaurant lease payments.

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