Aldermen proceed with financial review of convention center

Published 12:52 am Wednesday, October 4, 2017


NATCHEZ — Natchez aldermen Monday approved a financial review of the Natchez Convention Center received official approval and expect a final report by year’s end.

Aldermen voted unanimously Monday at a special call meeting to engage with CPA Wallace Collins’ firm, Collins, Barr & Hembree, which will conduct the review.

Email newsletter signup

City Attorney Bob Latham said the rate would be $150 per hour for partners of the firm and between $75 and $125 per hour for non-partners. Latham said the firm estimated total costs for the review would not exceed $5,000.

Latham stressed the review of the convention center is not an audit, which would cost much more and consist of a considerably more complex process.

In August, Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell announced the city would be performing an audit on the convention center after a petition began circulating that asked the mayor and aldermen to retrieve financial performance records from New Orleans Hotel Consultants, hotelier Warren Reuther’s company that the city pays to manage the center.

But after Monday’s meeting, Grennell said Collins suggested the city instead conduct the financial review rather than an all-out performance audit.

“Wallace told me, ‘You may not need an audit,’” Grennell said.

Grennell also recommended back in August the city seek proposals for the convention center’s management after the financial review is carried out, though the aldermen have yet to officially vote to do so as of yet.

The city’s contract with NOHC was set to expire at the end of last month, but aldermen voted unanimously Sept. 26 to extend the contract for an additional 90 days. That extension essentially validated the entities’ contract through the end of the year.

Following the outcome of the review, Grennell said, the city could then reevaluate and determine whether an audit is necessary.

Grennell said the board would not receive a financial report until at least November, possibly even December, but he admitted that estimation was “just a guess.”

Interim City Clerk Megan Edmonds said the financial review is an effort to receive more in-depth performance records from NOHC and achieve transparency for the public’s benefit.

NOHC has had annual reports before the board of aldermen, usually given by convention center manager Walter Tipton, but Grennell and others have said these presentations fall short of what the city desires and is required by the contract.