By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — In sharp contrast to recent criticism by city leaders, auditors gave the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau a clean audit Wednesday.
Certified public accountant Larry Pace said the financial audit was completed May 10 and covers the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. NCVB received an “unqualified opinion,” which means there were no red flags or problems with the financial reporting.
Shortly after the audit presentation, the NCVB Board of Directors instructed leadership to comply with a request from the city council for a detailed FY 2014 budget.
“We are a very transparent organization,” Board Chair Kris Glenn said.
Glenn said every investment NCVB has made will help move tourism forward in Norman.
The new fiscal year starts July 1 and some NCVB board members expressed surprise that the line item budget the board approved earlier this year had not been given to the city council.
Instead, NCVB Executive Director Stephen Koranda gave the council a truncated, one-page budget and a 47-page marketing report. Koranda said because the business is so competitive, it was decided a long time ago not to give a detailed budget report to the city council.
“You’ve got to remember this is not private money, this is taxpayer money,” said Council member Linda Lockett, who sits on the NCVB board as an ex officio member. “If you don’t want the money, you can do whatever you want — that’s the trade-off.”
While NCVB reports to the council and has opened its meetings to the press in the name of transparency, Koranda maintains that the tourism agency is a private entity. NCVB is classified as a 501 C(6) agency. Under the Internal Revenue Code, that designation “provides for exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade and professional football leagues, which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.”
As a private agency, NCVB is not subject to open meeting and open record laws. An attorney’s opinion supports that claim, but the matter has caused some consternation with the city council because the majority of the tourism bureau’s funding comes from the hotel/motel tax levied on Norman’s visitors.
In other NCVB business, the estimated number of room nights booked from NCVB leads so far this year is 13,261 — nearly double last year’s total number of 6,666.
“I think the room nights are huge,” said Glenn. “That’s the silver lining in this meeting.”
The number of web site hits has also just about doubled with 72,579 so far this year compared to 37,733 last year. Of those web hits, 61,892 are unique visitors compared to 31,089 unique visitors last year.
The board also approved the following candidates presented by the nominating committee:
· Sherry Brown, Republic Bank — Arts Council (renew)
· Carol Dillingham, Cleveland County — At Large
· Don Heibert, First Bank & Trust — At Large
· William Murray, Montford Inn — Hospitality Industry (renew)
· Paige Williams, Chickasaw Nation — At Large (renew)
· Michael Vance, Embassy Suites to be classified as Hospitality Industry representative instead of At Large
There is an open board seat with the recent resignation of Sandy Huse. Additionally, Randy Laffoon, SportsRadio 1400, has said he will be resigning his seat. Because that is a mayoral appointment, the board made no recommendation for the position.
Laffoon said he had told Koranda in March he would not return but forgot to speak with Mayor Cindy Rosenthal about it. He said he has spoken with her now, and she knows an appointment is needed.
Laffoon said NCVB does not do enough with sports, but that is because Norman does not have the facilities. Edmond is hosting a huge soccer tournament that will bring in numerous families, but Norman couldn’t compete for the tournament because it doesn’t have the needed fields, he said.
“The way it was originally portrayed to me, I thought sports would be a lot more involved,” Laffoon said.
Next year’s board officers will be: Suzanne McAuley — Chair; William Murray — Vice Chair; Michael Vance — Treasurer / Secretary and Joe Sparks — Past Chair.
Glenn, current chair, has served on the board for the past 6 years and will be stepping down at the end of this fiscal year.