CVB board clashes over finances

November 20, 2012 10:43:46 AM

Jeff Clark - [email protected]


After 20 minutes of closed talks that board members insisted was not an executive session, the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau board convened Monday to engage in yet another contentious session, this time over finances. 


After board treasurer Bart Wise gave his monthly financial report, where he stated sales tax receipts for the month are expected to be down from 2011, board member Bernard Buckhalter questioned executive director Nancy Carpenter over some checks written during October's Crappie Masters fishing tournament. 


"There were checks written for two banquets for this," Buckhalter said. "We voted to only hold one banquet." 


Carpenter said the banquets were part of a contractual agreement and the board voted to fulfill the wishes of the contract. 


"I would like for this board to start going over our bills before we pay them, like other boards do," Buckhalter said. "We need to see these bills before they are paid." 


Board Chairman Dewitt Hicks said everyone is allowed to see all bills and any additional paperwork at the CVB office. 


"You can see anything you want at any time, but if you want to change the policy, you should make a motion to do so," Hicks said. 


Buckhalter's motion, which was seconded by board member Whirllie Byrd, was voted down. 


The board also accepted festival clearance reports for Artesia Days, which received its final $4,000, the Crawford Cotton Boll, which received $2,250, and the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival, which received $7,500. Newly-appointed board member Leon Ellis voted against accepting all the clearance reports. Rissa Lawrence voted with Ellis to not accept the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival's clearance report. Clearance reports must be accepted in order for the second round of festival grant money to be awarded. 


With the implementation of new grant guidelines in place, the board received applications from both tourism and quality of life events for the first half of 2013. 


"Tourism events can be funded a maximum of $15,000 and they must spend 25 percent of their money on marketing and advertising," Carpenter said. "Quality of life events can be funded up to $8,000. All applicants must have paperwork from the secretary of state showing they are a non profit organization. Under our new guidelines, all entertainment must be paid in checks. Everything must be paid with checks. We will no longer accept cash vouchers." 


Applying for 2013 tourism events were Market Street Festival, Juneteenth Festival, Grilling on the River and the new Memphis BBQ Invitational. Applying for quality of life events were Artesia Days, Townsend Blues Festival and Crawford Cotton Boll. The Juneteenth Festival, organized by District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks, also applied for a quality of life grant. 


"The grant committee has done a very good job setting the new guidelines," Hicks said before appointing Nadia Dale to the committee.  


The board's grant committee will convene before the December meeting to discuss the applications. The board will vote on the applications in December.