By Christ Butler
The folks who run the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau spend taxpayer money like high rollers, yet no policy exists to reign them in, Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd said.
The CVB is a nonprofit that gets most of its money, about $8.2 million this year alone, from the county’s 4 percent hotel and motel tax.
Boyd said he has a two-inch thick binder full of the CVB’s credit card statements from the past several years.
Those statements, Boyd said, reveal CVB members bought top-shelf booze and considered it a “business expense.”
CVB employees traveled to a Utah ski resort at taxpayer expense. They also awarded six-figure checks to advertising firms without a formal bidding process, meaning the CVB likely spent more than it should have, Boyd said.
Those are only a few of the things Boyd said he uncovered.
Tennessee Watchdog can’t corroborate the contents of that binder because Boyd and CVB President Bob Doak said those documents aren’t public record — despite taxpayer money paying for most of what’s on it.
But Boyd said that, legally, he can discuss what he knows with the public. He said he plans to share more details next week.
“We’re giving millions of dollars to this nonprofit with no accountability. The lack of oversight is driving me nuts. Bob Doak’s ego is so strong that he feels entitled to all of that money,” Boyd said.
“As a nonprofit, the CVB may have seriously jeopardized its nonprofit status due to Doak’s questionable management of CVB funds.”
Doak told Tennessee Watchdog that Boyd’s accusations are “flat-out false,” and that auditors do indeed review the CVB’s expenses.
“Just because Tim Boyd has something to say does not make it factual,” Doak said.
“He is trying to tarnish me intentionally.”
Boyd chairs the county’s Finance Committee and has served as a county commissioner since 2010. Still, Doak said, Boyd does not fully understand how the CVB manages its finances.
On top of that, Doak said, Boyd has a vendetta because he didn’t get his way on a project.
“I would ask Mr. Boyd what his agenda really is,” Doak said.
“I think what is really going on here is that he wants to build a high school stadium and track in his district. He wants money from the CVB to build that stadium.”
But Boyd said the stadium was already built, and he couldn’t have used CVB money to pay for it anyway.
“It was bought and paid for with local tax dollars,” Boyd said.
“You can’t use hotel and motel occupancy tax money on building high school stadiums. That is against state law.”
Boyd said he and members of the CVB don’t have a history of grudges.
County Mayor Jim Coppinger failed to return a request for comment this week. None of Boyd’s eight colleagues on the county commission returned messages seeking comment.
“There’s no one else to talk to about this because no one else is looking at the documents I have,” Boyd said, adding that he has so far spent 60 hours reviewing them.
“None of the other members of the county commission are even interested.”
For our next story, Tennessee Watchdog will publish more specifics of the taxpayer waste Boyd says he has in his binder and what he describes as a lack of accountability on the CVB’s part.
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Reprinted with permission from Tennessee Watchdog