The state Comptroller’s Office is recommending the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) board of directors take steps to adopt detailed policies concerning how the CVB spends its money.
The Comptroller’s Office has completed a review of Hamilton County’s hotel/motel taxes which are all forwarded to the CVB. The annual report is required by Public Chapter 170, Public Acts of 2017.
The report contains three findings and some observations related to the CVB’s expenditures from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016.
One of the findings reveals the CVB did not maintain detailed receipts for 36 percent of the credit card charges examined by auditors.
Other findings disclose the CVB is not making written reports to the Hamilton County Mayor and Board of Commissioners as required by Resolution 207-27, and the CVB is not adequately documenting how gift cards received by local businesses are used.
Officials said, "Overall, the CVB’s operational policies and procedures are very general. The Comptroller’s Office believes more detailed policies should be adopted by the board to specify valid expenditures. Examples of items to address in the policies are if and when local meals are allowable, a reasonable amount for employee retirement gifts, and the appropriateness of other miscellaneous expenses.
"While some CVB expenses may appear lavish or questionable compared to county government departments, they might be considered reasonable or necessary within the tourism promotion and recruitment industry."
The Comptroller’s Office also recommends the Hamilton County Commission require transparency from the CVB and any other non-profit organization that receives county funds.
“The Chattanooga CVB receives nearly all of its funding from hotel and motel taxes,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “It’s vital that taxpayers have confidence that this money is used to promote the CVB’s mission. That assurance can be achieved if employees are following detailed policies on how money should be spent.”
CVB officials said conclusions included:
· The industry of tourism promotion and recruitment is unique and therefore cannot necessarily be compared to the operations of other departments of county government.
· The spending of the CVB appears to be for tourism and tourism-related purposes based on the documentation of expenses examined during the performance of our review.
· No obvious, material instances of waste or abuse were noted in our review of the expenses of the CVB.
Bob Doak, longtime CVB executive director, announced recently that he is retiring.
To view the Chattanooga CVB report, click here.
If you suspect fraud, waste or abuse of public money in Tennessee, call the Comptroller’s toll-free hotline at (800) 232-5454, or file a report online at: www.comptroller.tn.gov/hotline.
County Commissioner Tim Boyd said, "It is not good for our community that the State Auditor’s Office validated many of the issues raised over the past several months concerning the management of tax dollars by the CVB. However, what is important now is the path of cooperation the Hamilton County Commission, the County Mayor and the CVB Board chooses to follow going forward."