Attorney's fees draw scrutiny at CVB meeting

October 16, 2012 10:04:42 AM

Jeff Clark - [email protected]


Bad blood between Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Trustees member Whirllie Byrd, who was once the treasurer of the CVB, and Executive Director Nancy Carpenter took a monetary turn during Monday's regularly scheduled meeting. During an exploration of the financial statement for the month of September, board treasurer Bart Wise disclosed more than $2,000 was owed to board attorney Chris Latimer. 


"Are we going to look into these legal expenses?" newly appointed board member Leon Ellis asked. "This seems pretty expensive to me." 


Approximately $1700 of Latimer's bill is attributed to Byrd's inquiries regarding Carpenter's use of the CVB vehicle and other Carpenter-related issues. 


"I think all of us are conscious to the fact that we can't handle high legal bills every month," board chairman Dewitt Hicks said.  


Board member Bernard Buckhalter asked to see an invoice of Latimers' bill. 


Wise said the large bill was due to board members using the attorney at will. 


"One thing that has added up is board members running to the attorney and not going through the board," Wise said. 


Carpenter clarified Byrd had not done anything unauthorized. 


"Nothing was done that was unauthorized," Carpenter said after the meeting. "Everything was done through board meetings. She requested to speak with the attorney during board meetings. A lot of it had to do with me using the CVB vehicle." 


In September Latimer delivered an opinion to the board regarding Carpenter and the vehicle. 


"I've researched Nancy Carpenter using the CVB vehicle," Latimer said in September. "The law is this -- the CVB is a public entity, therefore it must comply with the laws that apply. A person must only use the vehicle for work and not personal use. However, the board may make a determination that, if it benefits the CVB and the employee is on call, the vehicle can be taken home at night." 


Although Byrd was not in attendance at Monday's meeting, she did respond to questions today concerning her inquiry about Carpenter. 


"If I had been there, I would have asked to see an invoice, because the bill does seem a bit excessive," Byrd said. "Although I have not seen the bill, I assume it was for the attorney to research Mrs. Carpenter using the CVB vehicle and her husband, Carol Carpenter, being on the vehicle's insurance. We still have not heard back from the attorney on the insurance request."