Convention, sales manager expenses denied by CVB boardPublished 12:13am Tuesday, June 11, 2013
NATCHEZ — The Jackson-based saleswoman hired to recruit conventions to Natchez has a salary and an office. She also has expenses, but no one to pay for them.
In a specially called meeting Monday, the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau board voted unanimously to deny paying expenses submitted by the New Orleans Hotel Consultants for convention and sales manager Angela Weathersby. She was hired in March to lure Jackson area groups to bring conventions and meetings to Natchez.
Such expenses are not allowed, CVB director Connie Taunton said.
“According to the State Auditor’s Office, we cannot pay her expenses because she works for the New Orleans management group, (not the CVB),” Taunton said.
In March, the Natchez Board of Aldermen voted to increase its monthly management fee to the group that hired Weathersby in an effort to help fund her salary. In turn, New Orleans Hotel Consultants agreed to pay Weathersby’s rent and other office expenses in Jackson.
New Orleans Hotel Consultants has a contract to manage the city-owned Natchez Convention Center.
According to New Orleans Hotel Consultants President Warren Reuther, the CVB agreed to assist in paying Weathersby’s expenses.
“We met with the mayor, and it was agreed that the city would pay her salary, (we) would pay for the rent and the CVB would pay for marketing money, including travel,” Reuther said after learning of the CVB board’s decision Monday.
Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said that Reuther, Taunton and he did have a meeting to discuss how to pay for Weathersby before the city met in March, but that there was a “misunderstanding” as to how the money would be authorized.
In the meeting, Taunton agreed to take the request of paying for Weathersby’s marketing expenses to the CVB board, Brown said. Reuther took his request to the board of aldermen before Taunton could address her board, Brown said.
“When it was presented to the (aldermen), it was presented as if the CVB had authorized it,” Brown said. “It was portrayed that the CVB had approved it, which they had not.
“Connie didn’t even know that Reuther was coming to the meeting (to request the additional funding.)”
Regardless of the misunderstanding, the CVB is not authorized to pay for such expenses, Taunton said.
“If we are going to pay expenses, she has to be an employee (of the city or CVB),” Taunton said.
Reuther said that in his mind there is little difference between paying for an ad and paying for Weathersby’s marketing expenses.
Like an ad, Weathersby’s job is to attract business to Natchez, Reuther said.
“If (Taunton) can pay for an ad, she can pay for a person who has the potential to bring a convention worth $50,000, $100,000 or millions of dollars,” Reuther said. “All we are talking about is $700 or so (a month),”
Reuther also said the CVB recently paid for the travel expenses for a consultant to help plan the city’s upcoming tricentennial celebration. In his mind, no difference exists between paying for that and paying for Weathersby’s expenses.
Reuther said he was not informed of Monday’s meeting and that he would like to see the state auditor’s opinion and know what questions Taunton asked the auditor.
“If (Taunton) doesn’t want to pay for it, she needs to come out and say it,” Reuther said. “We will pick up (Weathersby’s) expenses until it gets resolved.”