There are questions about whether the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau is misusing tax money.
The CVB gets nearly $500,000 a year from the hotel motel tax. The city attorney says, by law, that money must be used to promote tourism. He worries that's not how much of the money is being spent.
This came up as CVB officials gave city commissioners an update on tourism Tuesday. City Attorney Nathan Davis and commissioners are concerned about a budget line item that shows tens of thousands of dollars going to "general oversight." They say hotel/motel taxes can't be used to pay supervisors' salaries.
The city of Albany has seen an overall increase in tourism this year. But tourism officials may be spending some of the tax revenue generated by that increase inappropriately.
City commissioners and the city attorney questioned them on using hotel/motel tax money on supervision at the CVB.
"But just a general 87,000 dollar line item, or whatever the line item was, for what was described as for general oversight raises an issue of concern for our office," said Nathan Davis, City Attorney.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Officer Chris Hardy tried to clarify the use of the money. The commission commended Hardy for his transparency, but weren't satisfied with the explanation.
"They're gonna have to come up with some objective basis to support their words. Their words don't mean anything without some concrete demonstration of how the money's being spent," said Davis. "You know, they can spend the money on that if they want to, but just not hotel/motel tax money."
Davis says the funds can only be used to promote tourism. Beasley says her department is committed to promoting tourism, and understood the laws differently.
"The Hotel/Motel tax laws are very broad," said Rashelle Beasley, Tourism Director. "There are many different statutes in which you can collect under. And those statutes, you just have to...when you're going through them they can be interpreted different ways. So, it's one of those things we'll just have to work together with and make sure…because ultimately our goal is to promote tourism."
Hubbard and the commissioners asked for a more descriptive breakdown on the use of the tax revenue within the next two months.
Beasley says Hardy and the board of directors will ultimately be responsible for creating an agreement with the city on the use of the money. She also says her department is happy to report an increase in tourism after a strong promotion campaign.
The CVB has used hotel motel tax revenue to advertise in AAA magazine, travel guide and Canoe and Kayaking magazines in an effort to attract more visitors.