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Five Rivers Metroparks. Now run by the politburo

This is illegal. On July 26th Five Rivers Metroparks [1] started pushing a new policy to vendors at the 2nd Street Market- to take effect 8/1/2014. But before we even get to what the policy they are implementing is- we have to start with the e-mail signature of the person sending out the policy – it includes the following legalese:

This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail. Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system. Please note that any views or opinions presented in this e-mail are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Five Rivers MetroParks. Five Rivers MetroParks accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

It’s even styled to be hard to read- using gray type and small font style tags.

Please note, “Autumn Saenz Market Coordinator 2nd St Market Five Rivers MetroParks” you don’t work for a private law firm- but for a government entity- funded by our taxes. Everything you do is public information, covered by Ohio’s Sunshine laws [2], and available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Just the hint of some sort of secrecy- or that this isn’t public record, is a violation.

If any vendor wants to forward your communications, get used to it. Several vendors are my clients and talked to me about this new policy- and I concur, it’s absurd and illegal.

The new policy in question? “SOCIAL MEDIA RULES AND REGULATIONS” which prohibits talking smack about Five Rivers Metroparks, the Market, and or, anything about the market or any of the affiliates- up to and including the commissioners of the organization. So, in effect, we’re allowed to bully you into not being a “cyberbully” and if you talk about us, and our attempts to regulate free speech in public, we’ll terminate your lease.

The complete text of the new mandate:

Five Rivers MetroParks
2nd Street Market
Amendment to Rules and Regulations
Effective 8/1//14

2nd Street Market vendors and their employees or agents must be courteous and professional at all times. This includes vendors’ use of the Internet, e-mail and social media and digital networking tools.

Vendors and their employees or agents shall not make defamatory or derogatory remarks about Five Rivers MetroParks, the 2nd Street Market, or other related to Five Rivers MetroParks or the 2nd Street Market in their electronic communications, including on all social media platforms. They will not engage in gossip, spreading rumors, cyberbullying or similar behavior.

Vendors, their employees or agents may not use e-mail, the Internet or social media and digital networking tools in any manner that may impair the reputation or public standing of Five Rivers MetroParks, the 2nd Street Market or their employees, agents or Commissioners.

Fiver (sic) Rivers MetroParks and the 2nd Street Market reserve the right to report any such communication to the appropriate authorities and social media platforms as communication that violates appropriate standard of conduct. Repeated offenses of these rules and regulations may result in the termination of a vendor’s license agreement at conduct business at the 2nd Street Market.
Cut/Tear along the dotted line and return to Jimmy or Autumn. Thank You

By signing here, the vendor agrees to participate in the 2nd Street Market in accordance with the Amendment to the Rules and Regulations described in this document. Effective 8/1/14.
Vendor Business
Vendor Name
Vendor Signature

If you want an original PDF of the document in question: Social Media Amendment [3]

Metroparks is funded by Montgomery County taxpayers [4]. And just to make it clear- even if the vendors were direct employees of a private company- these policies and threats of lease termination would be illegal:

In January (2013), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a series of rulings and advisories that changed the rules for private businesses that want to punish workers who make these feelings public using social media.

The board’s rulings make it illegal for most private companies to enact broad policies that would punish workers who criticize their employers or work conditions if such venting could be considered part of an employee’s right to work toward improved working conditions.

via Do Governments Need Personal Social Media Policies? [5].

As our best example of regional cooperation, MetroParks should be the shining example of open government, and transparent practices. One of the oddities of this organization is that even though the public pays for this organization, we have no say in who runs it- the 3 “commissioners” are appointed by an unnamed “Montgomery County Probate Judge” [6] and seem to be appointed for life (although start dates for each isn’t listed, Irv Bieser and Alan Pippenger have been on this board for a long time (but we’ll save that issue for another post).

As of this time, most vendors, afraid to raise their voices against this policy fearing the threat of lease termination- are signing it and keeping their mouths shut. Technically, the release of the e-mail and document, may be grounds for termination. When we can’t talk in public about the conduct of the people in charge of our tax dollars, we don’t have a democracy, we have a dictatorship. And in that vein, to the director of Metroparks- I challenge you, Becky Benná- tear down this policy.


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Fascinating. Of course, if Metroparks terminated a lease over anything short of clearly libelous, the subsequent lawsuit would be even more damaging to them. And I note that even if, somewhere in their policies, they’ve got a signed doc that says “as a vendor I agree never to sue”, it’s legally not possible to force someone to sign their rights away–if that were possible, they wouldn’t be rights.

Find out who Matroparks’ lawyer is for us, please.


As a former employee of MetroParks, I’m not shocked at all. If the public knew what really happens behind those shiny glass doors, they’d never pass another levy. It’s sad because the employees “on the ground,” the rec department, the education department, really care about the public they serve. The managers and directors in the offices? Ha.

Bob VL

Email Legalese obviously.
FIRST – I wonder what Vendor would sign such an agreement???
Second. Is it legally binding ?
Third. What if all the Vendors LEFT the market …

Bob VL


“They will not engage in gossip, spreading rumors, cyberbullying or similar behavior……….
Fiver Rivers MetroParks and the 2nd Street Market reserve the right to report any such
communication to the appropriate authorities”.



Ah, here’s a subject on which I have a great deal to contribute. Not only is Metroparks run like the summer camp for Hitler Youth but they do so with zero regard for the public’s money. If infuriates me that no one there has any clue as to how to operate profitably and are just as happy to throw money down a rat hole as the rats are too make a nest of it.

Here’s just a couple of examples: during the winter season at Riverscape there are always enough employees at the rental office to to operate at full capacity…. even on Mondays when there are zero customers. The smart thing to do is to send all but one home or better yet, look at your sales history and only schedule one. However, the only way an employee can be sent home is if they voluntarily elect to leave. Since labor is the largest expense of any company I have to wonder how wide spread this practice is.

And while I’m on the subject of Riverscape, where is the cafe this year? It’s closed. All that equipment and all that expense laying fallow. Good job, Metroparks! Even though I have it on good authority that the previous vendor offered to run it for another year so they’d have more time to find the replacement they wanted. So the cafe’s closed which means the only people in the park at lunch time will be the brown baggers who don’t want to eat in the office. But Metroparks is still paying for the music at lunch program. Without a cafe that’s just another waste of money!

Oh but they’re going to run the concession stand themselves, more than likely with 8 employees in there to make one ice cream cone and 2 pretzels, thus turning that into just another red line item on the tax payers P&L.