Friday, January 31, 2014
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Tourism still concerned about legal fees

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[January 31, 2014]  At the Tuesday evening meeting of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, the first topic the board discussed was a bill from Doug Muck of Muck & Muck Attorneys at Law. The bill for $835.11 is for services rendered in September and October last year.

The board first learned of the debt when Muck & Muck issued an invoice Dec. 23 for their services. While the tourism board does not doubt that Muck & Muck performed services, they do question whether or not the tourism bureau is responsible for paying the bill.

At the January meeting of the tourism board, board president and Logan County Board member Andy Anderson said he had learned of Muck's involvement when he was made aware of a letter written to the county board chairman, Bob Farmer. Soon after that, legal representation by Muck was discontinued. Anderson also reported in January that he had asked Leslie Hoefle, who was then the bureau's interim director, about the letter, and she was not forthcoming with information.

This week Anderson provided tourism board members with a copy of the letter addressed to Farmer.

The letter states that because the city is exercising its prerogative to take the hotel-motel tax, there will be very little money available to promote tourism in Logan County. It goes on to say that the city has not been cooperative in working with the current board.

It also states that the tourism board, Route 66 Association and Mr. (Larry) Van Bibber are working together to assume responsibility for the world's largest covered wagon because the city has no interest in the wagon or its preservation.

In regard to the appointment of board members, the letter stated that the city is assuming they have the right to appoint board members, an assumption Muck believes is incorrect.

And finally, the letter asks for a response from the county, or alternatively invites the county to contact Charlie Ott or the tourism executive director to set up a meeting where these topics can be discussed.

This week Anderson said he had learned that Logan County Board member David Hepler was also involved in the situation. He said Hepler had written a brief synopsis of the discussions with tourism board members. Anderson said he didn't believe that Helpler knew what he was getting involved with at that time.

It was immediately questioned as to why it was Hepler who was approached. Hepler is a county board member but is not connected to tourism. This brought on the question whether it was Hepler who might have gotten Muck involved or recommended Muck be hired. Again this is something the tourism board doesn't know.

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Another question that arose is whether Muck is the official attorney of record for the tourism bureau. It was determined that he is not.

Anderson said he wondered if the bureau should go ahead and pay the bill and then take steps to make sure this doesn't happen again. Tom O'Donohue and Andi Hake agreed that there was no need to change anything in the bylaws. Both said the problem had been that members of the tourism board broke the bylaws by hiring an attorney without full board consent.

The group talked about what would happen if the tourism bureau did refuse to pay the bill. Hake commented on this, saying it really wasn't Muck's fault that this was handled inappropriately. She said she believed Muck was acting under what he thought was the authority of the tourism board.

Hake commented: "Do we just want to be done with this and agree that it wasn't tourism that hired him, but we want it to go away, or do we want to make an issue of it?"

Soon afterward, Anderson made a motion to approve the payment to Muck & Muck. He looked to Hake for a second but did not get it. With no second, the motion died on the floor.

O'Donohue said he agreed with Hake that Muck thought he was hired by the bureau, but the fact was, he was not.

As the discussion came to a close, the size of the bill was also questioned, as it seemed there wasn't a great deal done in relationship to the dollars charged.

Finally, Keith Snyder suggested that Doug Muck be invited to a future meeting so that he could perhaps shed more light on how this whole thing came about. The board agreed that would be the next step in resolving the matter.


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