Tourism Bureau discusses paychecks to Andi Hake, audit results, and designation of dollars for the Mill on Route 66 at April meeting

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[April 25, 2016]  LINCOLN - On Monday, April 18th the Logan County Tourism Bureau Council met for its monthly meeting. Council members present included Ron Keller, Steve Parrott, Shawn Taylor, Chairman Sal Pollice, and Tourism Director Maggie McMurtrey. Also present at the meeting was Tina Simpson of the Logan County Alliance. Simpson is the bookkeeper for the three entities - The Logan County Alliance, Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce, and the Logan County Tourism Bureau.

McMurtrey opened the meeting saying that audits conducted through the end of the calendar year 2014 were now completed, and had been presented to the bureau. Simpson would be on hand to field questions about the audit.

Continuing discussion of payroll payments to Andi Hake

Discussion in April quickly returned to a topic brought up at the March meeting regarding the Tourism payroll.

Councilman Steve Parrott had asked about payroll checks issued to Andi Hake in 2014 by the Tourism Bureau. His concern in March had been whether the bureau could justify that Hake had worked hours above and beyond her time spent as CEO of the Logan County Alliance.

Simpson was able to drill down to the root of the question and put the council members at ease when she noted that in 2014, the Alliance did not exist. Hake was an employee of the Lincoln/Logan Chamber of Commerce, and took on the additional duties of interim director of Tourism from June on that year, through the hiring of Sarah Wallick in September. Hake stayed on the payroll after Wallick’s hiring to provide guidance to the newly hired director. However, Wallick's employment was short lived, and she left the bureau in February of 2015.

The council members were satisfied with the answers from Simpson but still noted that the March 2015 payroll seemed to be a lot higher than that of March 2016. The group talked about who had been on the payroll in 2015 that was perhaps not on the payroll in 2016. In the end, Pollice asked that Simpson and McMurtrey pull all of the payroll from March of 2015 and bring it back to the council for review.

Audit for July 1, 2012, through December 31, 2014, completed

Typically, the Tourism Bureau under operation as the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County had conducted audits every three years. Those audits had been conducted utilizing a fiscal year that was in line with the State of Illinois fiscal year. Under the new organization of the Tourism Bureau, the decision had been made to conduct the audits through the calendar year 2014 and re-align the fiscal year of the bureau accordingly. Therefore the audit had covered July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013; July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014; and July 1, 2014 to December 31st, 2014.

In addressing the issues of the audit, McMurtrey said it had been a complicated audit because of the change of name for the Bureau and the fact that many of the people who worked for the bureau in 2012, 13, and 14, are not working there now. She said that she wanted to give the council fair warning that the cost of the audit was going to be about double what had been expected, bringing the total cost to about $16,000 for the two-and-a-half year term.

Simpson said that in general, the auditors had no concerns about the accounting for funds, and had found no serious errors or misappropriations. She said there would be a management letter from the auditors that would address the fact that current staff was unable to answer some of their questions due to a lack of first-hand knowledge of the records. She noted that in the two-and-a-half year audit period there were six checks issued that could not be substantiated with documentation, but that the six totaled less than $3,000.

Parrott asked if the auditors had expressed concern over this; and Simpson said, no, they had not. He asked if there were any other “red flags” that had gone up during the audit; and Simpson again said no. She indicated that the audit had been very thorough, saying she has spent a lot of time providing information to the accountants.

Taylor asked if the missing checks were a worry for Simpson. She said no. She explained that all of the items appeared to be purchases or reimbursements. She noted that one check, for example, was written to Nancy Saul, and Simpson was relatively certain that had been a reimbursement for items Saul had paid for out of pocket for the bureau.

Parrott said there needed to be some rules for reimbursement put into place, and McMurtrey said that has already been done. She said that the rules now are that receipts for reimbursement must be presented before the reimbursement. Also, she said, if the company credit card is used and a receipt is not produced, the expenditure may be deducted from an employee’s payroll check.

The council also discussed turning the audit materials over to the city of Lincoln. McMurtrey told the council that the official request for an independent audit of the bureau was now in hand, and the tourism council needs to make a decision about granting the independent audit.

McMurtrey said that at the last city council meeting she had attended, she had told the council the current audit was nearing completion. She noted that Alderwoman Jonie Tibbs had said something to the effect that if the city were satisfied with the audit, it might not need a second one.

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McMurtrey said she felt the thing to do was turn over the existing audit report, and see if the city still feels the need for a second audit. She added that if they do, the tourism bureau needs to emphasize that the city should pay for that audit out of its general fund, and not out of the money that could or should be coming to the bureau through the hotel/motel tax.

Parrott noted that the first letter had no time limit for a response, but that the city was going to send out a second letter that would include a deadline to answer of May 1st. Pollice said that was okay, but the bureau was going to respond now before that second letter arrived.

He said that he wanted to give McMurtrey the authority to draft a letter in response, saying that the Bureau was prepared to offer the city copies of the current audit, then wait to see if the city wanted more.

City distribution of hotel/motel tax dollars

In another discussion, the tourism council talked about a recent city of Lincoln decision to give $12,000 to the Route 66 Heritage Foundation for the Mill on Route 66, with the funds coming from the hotel/motel tax.

In general, the group was in favor of supporting the Mill but felt that they had been excluded from a decision that impacted their annual budget. Parrott explained this had been an 11th-hour decision for the city council. Geoff Ladd had brought the request to the council at a Tuesday night committee of the whole meeting and needed a letter from the city at 9 a.m. the next day.

The tourism council said that fact made the city’s decision more understandable, but it also opens a door for similar future decisions to be made by the city instead of the tourism bureau.

McMurtrey put the expenditure into perspective saying that the $12,000 given to the Mill was roughly the expenditure for one of her paid positions, such as the bookkeeper. She said she would have to work to figure out what she was going to take out of her budget to accommodate the city’s decision.

The group went on to discuss its current structure. Right now, dollars distributed by the tourism bureau to other organizations are for advertising of events and promoting heads in beds in local motels. However, the group agreed that the job of the tourism bureau could and should also be to help create new attractions.

Those present said that they would like to create a funding program wherein the Bureau could provide the funding for projects such as the Mill. McMurtrey reminded the council members that it is time to prepare a new funding agreement for the city of Lincoln and that now would be a good time to incorporate new plans for the future.

The discussion expanded into creating a cash reserve policy for the bureau. At the end of their last year, the Bureau had $45,000 that they placed in an interest bearing account. McMurtrey suggested that a project policy for expenditures like that for the Mill, could be written in accompaniment with a cash reserve policy. Then it would be a matter establishing that dollars held in reserve could be utilized for projects as the bureau was able to afford.

The tourism council agreed that they would like to see a draft of these policies at the May meeting. It was also recommended that in drafting these new policies, city leaders be consulted for their input on what these policies could look like.

[Nila Smith]

Tourism Directors since 2013

  • April 2013 – Geoff Ladd resigned as director.
  • July 2013 through October 2013 – Leslie Hoefle serves as interim.
  • November 2013 through spring of 2014 – Nancy Saul serves as interim.
  • Spring of 2014 – Robin McCallen hired, but leaves within weeks.
  • June 2014 through September 2014 – Andi Hake appointed interim.
  • September 2014 – Sarah Wallick hired as director.
  • February 2015 – Wallick leaves tourism bureau.
  • April 2015 to present – Maggie McMurtrey serves as director.

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