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Former market master decries loss of job

June 28, 1999

Norma ParksBy DAN KULIN / Staff Writer

photo: MARLA BROSE / staff photographer




Norma Parks has felt the effects of the city's fiscal 2000 budget, which goes into effect Thursday.

Parks, 50, the former market master at the City Farmers Market, is the only city employee to be laid off as a result of budget cuts. By eliminating her position, the city expects to save the city about $10,000.

In January 1996, Parks began working as the market master, a newly created position at that time.

For more than three years Parks worked roughly 20 to 25 hours a week overseeing the farmers market.

Parks said she worked to recruit new vendors to the market and was the vendors' contact person for problems.

"She was always willing to lend a helping hand," said Carolyn Litten, a vendor who sells confections and salads at the market.

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"She would even wait on a customer if she had to," Litten said.

Parks said she thought she was improving the market, bringing in more revenue for the city and improving the mix of vendors at the market.

On Feb. 23, Parks was told that her position was being cut.

"I was flabbergasted. I thought I had been doing a good job," she said.

Parks said that at first she was asked to keep quiet about her pending layoff.

Then in a March 15 letter, Parks wrote the mayor and City Council in an effort to convince them to keep her position.

The mayor and several council members previously had said there would be no layoffs as a result of the budget.

Parks tried to plead her case during a public hearing on the budget in early May.

Parks said the loss of her job could have been due to disagreements with her supervisor, City Public Information Manager Karen Giffin.

"It appears to be more than just a budget cut and that's probably all I should say about it," Parks said.

Giffin said the layoff was "due to budgetary reasons and not due to any performance (issues)."

Giffin said Parks' position was one of eight cut from the budget. All the other positions that were cut were unstaffed or soon to be vacant as a result of retirements.

Asked whether Parks was told to keep quiet about being laid off, Giffin said that officials were trying to avoid negative attention for the market.

Parks said the market probably will do fine next year because city officials will spend extra time on it to show that she was not needed.

In a year or two the market will suffer, she predicted. The slow months will be even slower and the good mix of vendors will slowly change for the worse.

Parks could have stayed until the end of the fiscal year, but decided to leave a few weeks early. June 16 was her last day on the job.

"It was hard to keep going there," she said. "All my duties had been reassigned and I had nothing to do."

She is considering moving, perhaps to Delaware, where she lived before moving to the area seven years ago.

"After the speech I felt I had done everything I could," Parks said. "Now I'm feeling like I'm done. I need to put it all away."

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