The board is currently working toward getting back to a regular
meeting date on the fourth Tuesday of each month.
At the beginning
of December, the tourism bureau began operating as a program
administered by the city of Lincoln. Early in the month they had a
special meeting to establish officers and assign check signers for
the payment of bills.
At that meeting, the board determined that they would need one
more special meeting, in early January, solely to authorize the
payment of bills, and then they would have their first regular
meeting of the new year on Jan. 28.
However, at the recent meeting, interim director Nancy Saul also
brought to their attention the status of a state grant, and the
group discussed for a while how to best use those dollars according
to the grant stipulations.
Board discusses bill from Muck & Muck, Attorneys at Law
At the beginning of the meeting, the first topic was the payment
of bills. The board reviewed the list of invoices and quickly
questioned one in particular: a bill from Muck & Muck, Attorneys at
Law in the amount of $835.11.
Andy Anderson, newly appointed board president, offered an
explanation as best as he knew about how the bill had come to be.
According to the invoice, the services performed by Muck & Muck
took place between Sept. 23 and Oct. 2. The list of services
included an office meeting with the board president at the time,
Charlie Ott, and "board members." There were also calls to an
unnamed board member, Leslie Hoefle, who was at the time the interim
executive director of the bureau, and to State’s Attorney Jonathan
There were charges for reviewing files pertaining to a
"directorship issue," a review of bylaws and statutes, a written
reply to a memo from a Logan County Board member, and the writing of
a letter to Bob Farmer, county board chairman.
Anderson told the board Thursday night that he was not aware that
any of this was happening until he learned of the letter written to
Farmer. He said he quickly put a stop to the legal representation,
but he was not aware that the bill for services rendered would come
to this amount.
It was noted that the invoice said there was a meeting with the
bureau president and board members. Anderson said he had not been
made aware of such a meeting, even though he was on the board at
that time. He said he believed that for the most part, the ones who
attended the meeting were probably no longer board members.
He also noted that he had no knowledge of who initiated the
meeting with Muck & Muck, but he suspected it was Ott. Darlene
Begolka confirmed that. She told the group that Ott had contacted
her to attend the meeting, but she did not go, so she couldn’t say
who in fact did attend.
Anderson also noted that Muck & Muck had conversations with
Hoefle. Anderson said he went to her and asked about the meeting,
but she was not forthcoming with much information.
Anderson said that judging by the dates on which all this
occurred, he believed this was at the time when Ott was hoping to
find a way to keep the city of Lincoln from taking over the
hotel-motel tax and thus becoming the governing body overseeing
tourism. But he qualified this assumption by saying he really had no
knowledge of the conversations.
During discussion of the bill, the question arose as to whether
Ott had the right to hire an attorney without the consent of the
full board. At the moment, no one had a copy of the old bylaws in
front of them, but Tom O’Donohue, who has reviewed the document and
rewritten portions of it for the new board, felt there was probably
nothing in the bylaws to prevent this kind of thing from happening.
This led to a discussion as to whether the bylaws needed to be
amended. The group will be looking at that in the future.
In the meantime, O’Donohue said that if the tourism bureau
created the bill, they were probably going to have to pay it. But he
wanted to know more about the services rendered before writing the
O’Donohue also said that the services of the attorney were
obtained without full board approval. He noted: "If we wanted to
make an argument that they (former bureau board members) did this
without board authority, so the bill is on them personally, but I
don’t think it is worth it. And if they did it on behalf of the
board, we will be hard-pressed not to pay it."
In the end the board decided that they were going to withhold
payment of the bill for this month and seek more information about
the services rendered before making the payment.
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Discussion of grant fund use and website development
Before the meeting adjourned, Saul told the board there was
another issue that they needed to be aware of.
The bureau has a grant through the Local Tourism and Convention
Bureau program. The grant is a 50-50 match between state funds and
local funds. In total the bureau received $27,493 from the state and
matched that dollar to dollar. Therefore, for the year beginning
July 1, 2013, and ending June 30, 2014, they must spend a total of
$54,986 or return the unused portion of the grant funds to the
To date the bureau has spent only $7,393, leaving $47,593 that
must be spent in the next six months.
The dollars remaining and their designations would be for meeting
and convention market, $4,000; motorcoach and group tour market,
$10,787; sports marketing, $12,400; consumer and leisure market,
$13,876.87; and festivals and special events, $6,528.89.
Inside the grant agreement, seven objectives were set: Increase
sports tourism, increase website use, increase group tours, increase
Route 66 tourism, research and evaluate new advertising methods,
increase community partnerships, and increase overnight stays in
Logan County by 7 percent.
As the board reviewed the documents Saul had presented, one of
the first questions was addressed to bureau director Jean Bruner-Jachino
of the Hampton Inn. She was asked if a 7 percent increase in
overnight stays was a reasonable number.
Bruner-Jachino told the board that in her business that number
was very low. She said at the Hampton, when they are looking to
increase overnight stays, they set a goal of at least a 20 percent
Saul had also provided information about advertising
opportunities the bureau could use to expend the grant. The board
talked about the value of promoting Logan County with the United
According to the memo Saul provided, an advertisement in the
publication would draw attention to Logan County as a destination
for motorcoach tours. The memo stated that on average, one overnight
motorcoach trip can generate over $11,000 in local economic impact.
Again, it was Bruner-Jachino who said these tours were of great
value, but she also noted that by now tour packages for 2014 are
completed. She said she felt advertising with the association would
have great value, but it would be a year or more before the bureau
might see any results.
The board reviewed other opportunities to spend the grant funds
as presented by Saul, but then moved on to discussion of how to use
the money to create a better tourism website. Improving the current
website was one of the objectives of the grant.
First, Saul reported that while the staff had not had access to
the website since the departure of former director Geoff Ladd, the
bureau does own the website and can make changes to it.
She said the website is currently out of date and she wanted to
get it updated with new information.
It was soon noted that the website in general was lacking and
could be greatly improved upon.
Discussions followed about if the bureau improved the website or
created a new one. Could they, for example, use a portion of the
$12,400 in the grant designated for sports tourism to help pay for
the sections on the website that addressed local sports?
Saul said they could.
The group decided to explore this further. Mayor Keith Snyder
suggested that Saul spend some time looking at other tourism
websites, and if she saw something she liked, to contact that bureau
and ask who they had do their site. It was discussed that the board
should send out "Request for proposal" letters to website designers
or take bids for the project.
Finally, the group acknowledged the need to move sooner rather
than later on spending the grant funding. With the fiscal year for
the grant ending June 30, if the money is not all spent, the unused
portion will have to be returned to the state. In addition, not
using the money could possibly result in a reduction in grant
funding in the future.
The board ended their evening shortly after this discussion.
The plan is to get the schedule back on track with another
regular business meeting on Jan. 28, the fourth Tuesday of the
month. Once that is achieved, the board will go back to meeting only
once a month, on the fourth Tuesday. Meeting times have been changed
to start at 5 p.m. instead of 4:30 p.m. as they have been in the
past. The meeting location has also been changed to the Hampton Inn
for the foreseeable future.
[By NILA SMITH]