Boucher says her questions have gone unanswered and her dissent was perceived as a personal attack.
A Crookston Convention & Visitor’s Bureau board member submitted her resignation in a letter to the chair Friday and pointed out that the contract between the City of Crookston, Crookston Chamber of Commerce and CVB had been breached with more money being taken out of the budget for administrative fees for the Chamber than what the contract defines. Elizabeth Boucher ended her letter saying the CVB’s money is going to “dry up” and the hotels that fund the CVB through a lodging tax on hotel stays will “pay the price.”
CVB board chair Janessa Quanrud did not address the breach of contract in her response, but said, “The CVB, like many businesses, are in a time of uncertainty and the board continues to take a cautious approach with the budget due to COVID-19.” Quanrud also thanked Boucher for her time on the board and wished her well.
Boucher’s letter, forwarded to local media and the City Council, states that she felt the CVB board is “unable to effectively further the mission of the CVB in its current state” and said she was unwilling to “participate in such a fruitless endeavor.”
“Clearly this board is unsure of how to move forward, how to plan for an uncertain future and seems frozen in place,” she explained, referencing a “bizarre” meeting in March where she asked the board to “start thinking about the best future for the CVB” and later said the meeting was “hijacked” by the director that “took it as a personal attack when a council member asked for the thoughts of the businesses directly affected by and who pay for the CVB with their tax money.”
Note: New Ward 5 City Council Member Joe Kresl reached out to the Crookston Inn, AmericInn, Cobblestone Hotel and Golf Terrace Motel owners before the council’s annual Strategic Planning Session in early March to get their feedback on the CVB and was met with concerns over the CVB’s budget, how much money was going to administrative costs and the lack of marketing for the hotels. Kresl provided his findings to the Council and the Times wrote about the findings in the second part of their series of stories on the planning session.
“I still maintain that the best opportunity for the CVB’s survival is to separate and recommit to ‘Heads on Beds’ as the sole mission,” Boucher said later in her letter.
The CVB is housed under the Chamber and falls under the responsibility of the board of directors, a coordinator and the executive director, Terri Heggie, who is also the director of the Chamber. The 2006 contract between the city, Chamber and CVB, which has yet to get an update after the City Council tabled discussion on the topic at least twice in the last six months, states that 15 percent of the lodging tax money taken in by the CVB from hotel stays will go to the Chamber for administrative costs. A December 2019 budget for the CVB provided to the City Council by Heggie showed that approximately 18.5 percent was taken out for admin fees for the Chamber.
Note: A proposed update to the contract provided to the City Council in February 2020 showed the possibility for an increase of up to 25 percent of the admin fee that would be paid to the Chamber, but more than one City Council member voiced their concerns on the proposed increase and the topic has since been tabled.
Boucher says that the CVB’s “marriage” to the Chamber has only created “confusion” and “a degree of chaos” that “does not serve either organization well.” She states that she attempted to get the board to have a “plan in place” before the pandemic when the Crookston Inn was closed for a brief time and now they’re faced with a “much bigger crisis” with COVID “decimating” the hotels’ business and “even more money is disappearing.” Boucher said she was “sidelined and ignored” and has been accused of being “mean” and “disrespectful” for asking questions that are still unanswered.
“Dissent is healthy, questions are necessary and coherent discussion is key to progress,” she wrote. “Dissent is not a personal attack and should not be perceived as such. Dissent is simply ‘I do not agree.’ My dissent was taken as disrespect and as a personal attack on the director; I will not apologize for dissenting.”
“As the CVB is the steward of public tax money, precise and clear accountability of every penny is crucial,” Boucher added.