Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority given only $2.5M in face of concerns about agency

By: Mecklenburg Times staff reports//June 28, 2011//

Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority given only $2.5M in face of concerns about agency

By: Mecklenburg Times staff reports//June 28, 2011//

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The Charlotte City Council has decided to award $2.5 million, rather than $10 million, to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, in a blow to the embattled tourism-booster group.

The council is expected to vote July 25 on the remainder of the funding.

The CRVA was seeking $10 million, but instead council members approved $1.7 million to lure conventions to the city and $800,000 for operating expenses.

The CRVA has been the subject of criticism over its handling of a PricewaterhouseCoopers review of the organization. The review was launched because of concerns over CRVA spending and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association bonuses paid to a CRVA staff member.

PricewaterhouseCoopers was paid $25,000 to conduct the review this year. It gave an oral report to the CRVA, which produced a 2 1/2-page summary of the findings. That led Mayor Anthony Foxx to blast the CRVA, accusing the organization of spending “$12,500 a page.”

This week, the CRVA produced a 17-page report from PricewaterhouseCoopers on the operations of the CRVA.

The council voted 7-4 to award the CRVA the $2.5 million, with Patrick Cannon, Warren Cooksey, Edwin Peacock and Warren Turner voting against the lowered amount.

Councilman Michael Barnes said the limited funding will be enough to carry the CRVA through July.

But Cooksey had questions about micromanaging the CRVA and whether the City Council had adequately communicated its concerns to the organization.

“If we’re going to postpone funding to this group, shouldn’t we be clear as a group what our intentions are for postponing this action?” he said. “Where’s our transparency? Where are we being very clear about what our expectations are?”

Cannon also questioned the need for withholding the entire $10 million, which he said is earmarked for tourism marketing and convention and business development.

Cannon said that while he has lingering concerns about the CRVA, the analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers has nothing to do with the CRVA’s budget allocation.

“This money would be used to bring in conventions that increase our bottom line,” he said.

Foxx also weighed in.

“The purpose of this motion isn’t to choke the CRVA to death,” he said, “but actually to provide it with sufficient operating capability until the July meeting.”

Councilwomen Nancy Carter and Patsy Kinsey said they did not have an opportunity to read the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, which was released Monday afternoon, prior to the council meeting.

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