BY TOM BUSSELBERG
FARMINGTON – The Davis County Commission won’t renew its contract with the Davis Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) after it expires Dec. 31.
County commissioners made that announcement Tuesday. They released a 50-plus page audit that found the CVB was not meeting its obligation to provide the necessary return on investment of tax dollars.
The entity is funded by restaurant, hotel and car rental tourism taxes, as well as about 9 percent from state tourism-related funds.
“As a marketing organization, they were supposed to facilitate both general tourism and book events at county facilities,” County Commissioner Louenda Downs told the Davis Clipper.
“They were born with the convention center, and with a need to ensure that facility was profitable,” she said. The CVB was also tasked with generating events for the Legacy Events Center (fairgrounds complex).
The CVB was started with a budget of $200,000 in August of 2003 and, for this calendar year, had a budget of $851,933 from the county and just over $70,000 from the state.
“We asked for an audit if those funds were being used appropriately,” Downs said. “After reviewing everything, the auditors recommended not to renew the contract. They said those obligations were not being met.”
“We must be responsible stewards,” Commissioner Bret Millburn said. “We have to make a determination whether the dollars are being spent in the most efficient manner.”
“We’ve been watching, trying to work on this for at least the last five years,” Downs said.
“We don’t have a choice. It’s pretty clear there’s a new direction that has to be made,” Millburn said.
The county will look at options including operating the CVB in-house, such as by creating a department or a subgroup within another department.
“This is a sensitive issue. That’s why we engaged an outside firm,” Downs said.
The CVB board currently includes Commission Chair John Petroff and Millburn as members. Downs has served on that board before. County Clerk/Auditor Steve Rawlings currently sits on the board.
Rawlings told the Clipper he recommended an outside firm conduct the audit to avoid any perception of conflict of interest.
The firm of Wisan, Smith, Racker & Prescott, LLP, (WRSP Certified Public Accountants), Salt Lake City, conducted the audit for $9,800. Former Utah Attorney General Val Oveson is with the firm.
As part of the audit, input was received from the CVB, Davis Conference Center and Legacy Events Center.
Barbara Riddle, CVB executive director, said the audit “focused on business generated for 14 months (in advance) and out, and (specifically for) the conference center. It doesn’t talk at all about the tourism side.
“This organization has done a phenomenal job. I wish the county the best as they move in another direction,” she told the Clipper.
Legacy Center Department Director Dave Hansen said in audit-included comments that it has benefited from CVB marketing “to a limited extent. They have brought us a small number of leads that have turned into paying customers.”
Conference Center General Manager Scott Lunt said that entity has had trouble with the CVB. “The organization had complete control over the calendar starting at 14 months away and moving out,” his comments in the audit said. He added that cooperation between the CVB and Conference Center are “hindered due to the CVB predominantly booking inside the 14-month window, not outside. The audit clearly points out the CVB has been ineffective in doing so and has not met their contractual agreements,” Lunt said.
“It’s painful,” Downs said of having to make the decision. “The CVB did not meet the obligations in the contract. That’s clearly the bottom line. We have to act on that Р as much as we dislike the possible human impact.”