Detailed receipts were not kept for 36 percent of the credit card charges made by the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), according to a state audit released today.
The CVB also hasn't made written reports to the Hamilton County commission and mayor, as required, the audit found. And the CVB didn't adequately document how gift cards it gets from local businesses are used.
The CVB needs to be transparent about how it handles the tax dollars it gets, said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, whose office issued the report.
"The Chattanooga CVB receives nearly all of its funding from hotel and motel taxes," Wilson said. "It's vital that taxpayers have confidence that this money is used to promote the CVB's mission. That assurance can be achieved if employees are following detailed policies on how money should be spent."
Longtime CVB President and CEO Bob Doak, who last month announced he'll retire at the year's end, said government rules for receipts and spending are different than those who are engaged in selling and promoting the city to tourists and trying to recruit conventions.
"Government certainly has their own rules, but we operate under the standards of the industry we work with," Doak said.
Doak noted that the audit said the funds are being used for tourism and tourism-related purposes and there was no waste or abuse.
"That speaks volumes about the integrity of this organization," Doak said.
In July, in response to the audit, the Convention and Visitors Bureau adopted new procedures to better document its receipts and Doak said the agency is preparing an annual report "which will be out shortly."
But prior to the audit, the state audit said CVB did not provide any written reports to the county even though the county's resolution providing hotel tax money to the tourism bureau said the CVB was to make "regular and periodic written reports to the Hamilton County Mayor and board of commissioners."
While some CVB expenses may appear lavish or questionable compared to county government departments, the comptroller's office said, the expenses might be considered reasonable or necessary within the tourism promotion and recruitment industry.
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