Former Clark Metro Executive Director seeks to clear name
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, September 2007) Eight months after leaving Clark Metro Development Corporation (CMDC), the organization’s former Executive Director Steve Kruger wants to move on. Kruger says he would also like to clear up rumors being spread that he erased data from CMDC’s computer and allegations about missing organizational funds.
Kruger says early in his tenure at CMDC he secured a grant of $15,000 to $20,000 to upgrade the organization’s computer system. He says the computer system he set up at CMDC was designed to back up everything each employee did on individual computers to a main server. Kruger said the first thing he did every morning was to take out the old tape and put in a new tape for the backup system.
Kruger explains that while the laptop computer he worked on crashed back in October of 2006, all the information that was on it was already backed up to the main server. He said he went to Michael Albright, an IT consultant recommended by CMDC’s accountant Bill Barrett, for assistance at the time. He said Albright could confirm that he couldn’t restore the information to the laptop and that all CMDC’s files were being backed up to the server.
Kruger says that when former CMDC employee Abe Bruckman left CMDC to work at Ohio City Near West, Kruger used Bruckman’s computer at CMDC and began taking home the laptop, bringing information back and forth to the office on a disk rather than using the laptop for storing information again. He said when he left the organization he delivered the laptop back to CMDC. There was still nothing on the laptop, he said.
Kruger recounted the circumstances of his dismissal. He noted that he was at the board meeting and turned in his keys and didn’t go back to the office. He says the issue of missing data didn’t come up until three months after he was gone.
Kruger suspects that the staff at CMDC failed to properly backup the system after he left. He said the way the board dismissed him left no transition for the organization. Kruger says if the board had handled his dismissal in a less abrupt manner he could have helped to show the staff how to properly back up data. He said CMDC could have also hired an IT person to explain how to back up the system.
As for the allegations that funds were misappropriated, Kruger explained how the revenue and expenses of the organization worked. Some former board members have wondered how the organization’s large monthly allocation from the landlord to manage the building was being spent.
Kruger explains that the bulk of Clark Metro’s funding came from its management of the bank building on W. 25th and Clark Avenue for the landlord. He said funds left over after paying the expenses of the building were used to pay for staff. He said when he came to CMDC the staff was down to three people and himself. He said he built the staff up to 12 people.
Kruger said he received a year and a half notice that Cuyahoga County, the largest tenant in the part of the building managed by CMDC, would be leaving, ending CMDC’s largest source of income.
Kruger said since coming to CMDC he had developed plans to move Clark Metro Development Corporation into creating other sources of income such as managing additional rental property and charging fees for services to developers. Kruger noted that independent revenue sources he proposed were similar to those being tapped by other community development corporations such as Detroit Shoreway.
Kruger says CMDC Board rejected that plan. Kruger says CMDC Board President Randy Buchko wanted CMDC to pursue grants and city of Cleveland funding instead of developing permanent independent sources of funding.
Kruger says income-generating plans he proposed included using a four-unit suite on Sackett Avenue that the Cleveland Housing Network had offered to donate to CMDC as income generating rental property. Kruger estimated that with and investment of $1,000 - $2,000 per unit the property could have offered a steady stream of rental income to CMDC. Kruger said the board said no to accepting this donation.
Kruger said he also proposed a plan to develop the Paris Theater, a property that CMDC had acquired under a previous Executive Director. Kruger says the City of Cleveland gave CMDC a grant from its Workers Compensation fund to purchase the building for the purpose of creating a community center. Despite pressure from then Councilman Nelson Cintron, Jr. to have the building demolished and the land sold to Pat O’Malley as parking for the Aragon Ballroom, Clark Metro decided to live up to its agreement with the city and create a community center.
Kruger said he proposed a plan to move CMDC’s office to the theater building when its current lease ran out and its building management contract would end with the exit of the Cuyahoga County offices. He said he planned to have CMDC secure properties in the West 25th and Clark area to be used as storefronts and rental property to help revitalize the area, similar to what Detroit Shoreway is doing at W. 65th and Detroit.
Another part of the plan was securing additional parking for tenants. Kruger says because of his reputation and good standing with Third Federal from his time working with Habitat for Humanity, the bank came to him and offered to donate its building to CMDC. Because it would cost over $1 million to bring the building up to code, Kruger said he asked the bank to demolish the building and pave the area and donate it as a parking lot. He said this complimented planning to acquire additional rental properties at W. 25th and Clark.
Since Kruger’s departure from the organization, Clark Metro has sold the parking lot and is financing the organization with proceeds from the sale. A new director has been hired for the organization and two veteran staff people have recently resigned.
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