Board disputes control of CVB

By Corene Brisendine

After two hours of deliberations Tuesday night, city commissioners decided they want to take back control of the Convention and Visitors Bureau advisory board.

But the CVB budget, currently $1.2 million, apparently will remain with the Chamber of Commerce.

Only a change in the city’s contract with the Chamber and its CVB arm could alter decision-making authority over how money is spent to promote Manhattan.

There is precedent for the commission having a greater say in the workings of the CVB advisory board – which does not have spending authority on its own. The commission appointed the board until that procedure was changed in 1997.

City manager Ron Fehr said there was no documented reason why the commission stopped appointing the board.

City attorney Bill Raymond said that he thought it had to do with an opinion issued by the Kansas attorney general in 1997 – stating that an advisory board was optional and did not have to be appointed by the commission.

A board created by the commission would be subject to open records and open meetings laws.

Interest by some members of the commission to retake control of the board sparked to life after the CVB gave the Fieldhouse Project a $25,000 grant in June.

The Fieldhouse Project is a local effort to build sports facilities for kids.

According to commissioners, that decision by the CVB was outside its scope of marketing Manhattan to visitors.

However, Chamber president Lyle Butler said the CVB has given other grants to various entities in Manhattan – just not as large as the one given to the Fieldhouse Project.

As a result of the flap over the grant, the commission agreed the advisory board needed to be appointed by the commission to provide more oversight of the CVB.

Commissioners also expressed a desire to have one of their members become a non-voting member of that board.

Commissioners Usha Reddi, Karen McCulloh and Rich Jankovich said that would be sufficient oversight of the CVB.

Mayor John Matta and Commissioner Wynn Butler disagreed. They want the board to be answerable to the commission rather than to the Chamber.

Butler also wanted the meetings to be subject to open records and open meetings laws, in order to keep public perception positive after what he called the “fiasco” with the Fieldhouse Project.

McCulloh eventually agreed to the commission appointing the board, because that was how the city statutes were written – even though a commission has not appointed a board since 1997.

The commissioners also indicated they want to alter the contract with the Chamber and CVB, requiring any grants over a specific amount first be approved by the commission.

However, Matta said that should be part of a separate discussion and not included in the revamping of the advisory board.

Although no official vote was taken during Tuesday’s meeting, the feedback from the commission allows city staff members to modify existing rules governing the board’s function and appointments.

City officials will bring a finished statute back to the commission for a vote.

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