Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Current Watch: Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce. City Council Brings Forward Ordinance Changes to Protect Tourism Fund

(Below this post today is a summary of the long standing whistleblower issues surrounding our Chamber of Commerce. The primary issue being the surrounding of the Tourism Marketing Contract and alleged misappropriation of public funds. )

On July 1st, 2010, our City Council meeting begins the process of covering proposed changes to the relationship between the public Accommodations Tax, the current Tourism Board and the tourism marketing contractor in our Chamber of Commerce.

Smalltown7 has reviewed the current council packet and the proposed changes to the existing Ordinance.

We state again that we will take the win.

We state again that it is not enough.

Especially now that the wording of proposed change is reviewed.

This proposal is a watered down, designed to make politicians happy piece of milk toast.

Change will come for sure and it is good change. It’s also change that has no accountability except for 'future' board, council and city administration. There are no answers to any of the list of issues below.

Issues brought time and time again before City Council.

Will there ever come a day when the general public gets their answer to the very simple questions of ‘Where is the estimated 14 to 18 million dollars flowing through suspect Chamber coffers? All of it and not just surface scanning of receipts and expenditures? Is there anyone at all in charge of these funds who is willing to show transparency and accountability to the people?’

Smalltown7 feel that in the future there will be. Thanks to this hard fought, but still way too small win.

We remain thanking City Council for the effort made so far. 

We remain challenging you to do better.

What say you, all followers of this blog watch?

When you look through the decades worth of issues below this post; is this effort by council enough for you?

How are you feeling about the public disgrace surrounding Glenwood Springs right now?

• Currently, our President and CEO, Marianne Virgili remains under investigation, as does our Chamber. Currently, our Chamber of Commerce Board and our City Council are public disgraces for their continued apathy and blind eyes that ultimately authorize breaches of ethics directly traceable back to this organization.  Breaches so extreme they are shocking. Breaches of ethics that are traceable back at least 13 years now.

• Currently, we have major political races in our county. County races that ironically have ties directly back to the Chamber. Alleged illegal acts performed within a county owned building that the Chamber sits in and our public funded by Tourism Visitor’s Center operate through. Not one commissioner doing anything about any of the allegations. We currently have one of the founders of the Tourism Board concept, Tom Jankovsky, trying desperately to distance himself from the Chamber as he runs for County Commissioner against incumbent Democrat Tresi Houpt. Should we elect a powerful commissioner’s seat to someone who not only has been blind for a decade but who also apparently has the type of ethics that condone and allow this mess to effect all of us in such adverse ways?

Smalltown7 does not believe so and announced this week our support of Ms. Houpt, the Democratic incumbent.

Should the public allow an obvious biased local media to continue to attempt to brainwash by using artful spin tactics and wordsmithed press releases handed to them by our marketing vendor?

Smalltown says absolutely not. Continuing local commentary and their work here.  Pointing out the seemingly small discrepancies that later turn into things that can blind a public for years and cause all to have to wade through and sort out to get to the full truth.

• Currently, we have a growing population following this watch,  that is so fed up and filled with both disgust and horror at the extreme abuses of power present in our town; that one of our members coined the phrase: “..a puss filled, malignant tentacle..” in describing for a local forum how deep these issues of years infiltrate.

We all are watching impending change from the empowerment of smaller voices gathered together. The sub community of this town that holds up higher standards for our officials, civil liberties free from encroachment, common sense with practical applications and a zero tolerance policy for the unjust, unfit and obviously lacking individuals and policies that presently shape portions of our community.

Yes, smalltown7 takes the win coming at all of us this Thursday night.


It is not nearly enough.

Live feeds of City Council meetings can be found on meeting night on the City of Glenwood Springs website.   

You do not have to be present in order to speak up.

Let go of feeling pushed or bullied to do so. 

There is no mandatory requirement to be publically displayed in order to speak your mind. 

With the track record of protection that our city officials have towards anyone speaking up; there are few in their right mind who would speak publically.

Send an email to any councilman. Watch for openings in local media to voice your opinion.

Keep talking.

If you are one of the quiet ones listening, listen to all and do so actively not passively. Brainwashed and spun for decades ends in present day. Remember threads, remember all the facts. Eventually, speak up and be heard.

Here is the summary of complaints against the sole source marketing vendor; the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce: 

All of these issues tie into the public accomodations tax because of the long standing sole source governship by the chamber.  Since we have a Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors acting on bruised egos now instead of complete and total  fiscal responsibility to all citizens in the 81601 zip code; the list below is sorted into two sections.  The first being what the people can push hard and forward on with likely a good result now.  Power is in your corner.  The second part of the list will either be forced to scandal resolution or die a natural death with no accountability or restitution for citizens when the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association finishes it's current spiral downward.

It is worthy to note:

“The claims from all actual whistleblowers who have spoken up since the late 1990's to
current day are all the same. It’s important to note that none of these people collaborated
or even knew each other at the time they came forward with their claims."

Part one of summary.  Directly related to public funds:
• There are false line items within the 1/4 allotment for expenses contracted to the Chamber ea. year in the marketing contract. Items such as $20,000 to $25,000 for building rent when the building is rent free from Garfield County. Travel related expenses that don’t exist. Equipment that either was not purchased for Chamber use or was logged as a new purchase when old equipmentwas actually still in use. The claim of the expenses never being forensic scrutinized has held up over the years. No audit or transparency has been made public. As recently as February 2010, close to one year after the last complaintant came forward  City Council notes (minutes of 2/6/10) the heated debates over this issue.

• Credit card use as allegedly fraudulent. Trips for travel with employees that showed a few
dozen credit cards being shuffled to pay for lavish hotels, meals, travel and gifts.  Much of the use being done under the disguise of being tourism related work trips. Until the last whistleblow, it was not known how many cards were out there. It was only known that all the incentives,
rewards, air miles earned from card use were never used by anyone other than
the Chamber President and CEO. That the cards high balances, averaging around $8,000 per month, were always paid off in full every month. It was also brought forward that often new cards were brought in and balances shuffled instead of paid off.

• Vehicle expense logs as false. 5000 miles per month and upwards logged as actual
miles driven and then billed out as expense. Far less reported in actual drive miles
based on the schedule of how often driver was out of building.  Again, supposedly tourism related. Issue becomes a question of double dipping, possibly triple dipping.  Tourism related expenses are supposedly a part of expense reimbursement in the Tourism Marketing Contract. 

• False mailing lists created based on direct and reported as power abusive
instructions to employees to create them no matter how or where names and
addresses were obtained. The items passed through billing meters and the City was
charged.  Old complaint, but still valid because it was never resolved except to slap wrists at the chamber. 

• Hand picked within the Chamber the oversight board in the Chamber Board of Directors.
At the inception of the Tourism Board, they too were hand picked and selected as
sitting members. Council Minutes of 06/03/10 reveal that has now been changed
and ordinance is being drawn up (first reading July 1, 2010 council meeting) to eliminate all but the City of Glenwood Springs control over the Tourism Fund. The Chamber Board of Directors to remain as the governing power of the non-profit Chamber Resort Association.  ***Headed to resolution.

• Misuse, for intentional purpose to harm political campaigns and whistleblowers, the use of Chamber of Commerce infrastructure in the powerful database and search optimizing ability of the computers purchased through the Tourism Fund Marketing contract.

• Complaints of no RFP issuance, ever, on this large of a public contract.  ***Should resolve in the future with the new Tourism Board structure in place.

• Complaints of a non profit organization acting instead as a for profit marketing
company. The reasoning behind the for profit appearance was because the
argument from the chamber, every year, to others having a chance at the award was
that the chamber “owned” all that it had created within the Tourism Marketing
Contract. Website, reservations control, etc. etc. At the high dollar monies being
discussed, it would show a very high profit margin for this 501c6 non-profit organization.

Part two of summary:
• Complaints from the membership/small business sector that the Chamber of
Commerce was supposed to serve took/takes a backseat to their work as a
marketing company for the tourist industry. Numerous and costly to the public
entities over the years have had to be created to compensate. Downtown
Development, Downtown Partners, etc.

Legitimacy in awards to the Chamber and head personnel. Complaints that most of
the awards and accolades to it’s sitting President and CEO were self applied for

rather than earned.

• Complaint of misuse of employee rights in hiring and firing. The change the
Chamber implemented after the 2005 situation was to start hiring 1099 contractors
instead. The current complaint is that these contractors actually are housed for
their work duties within Chamber walls.

• Complaint of being harassed via internet and email to her new employer in another
state, by one of the 2005 era of complaintants.

• President and CEO, Marianne Virgili named as a primary suspect in felony complaints filed to authorities by a private citizen that span in date range from December 2008 through to current day.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Current Watch: Glenwood Springs City Council puts start of initiative forward to completely change oversight of Tourism Board and Chamber


Tremendous progress, albeit at the snail's pace our City Council is noted for, is in process as a result of the June 3rd, 2010 Glenwood Springs City Council meeting.

While the local newspaper is obviously being given limited information or is purposely not reporting all that is going on in the background regarding the Tourism Marketing Contract and oversight of the Chamber; smalltown7 is greatly encouraged by this progress.

We are also calling for fast movement in drafting the ordinance that changes oversight.

We are also calling for fast movement in putting together an RFP (Request for Proposals) for the 2011 awards.  Kate Collins, former VP at the Chamber of Commerce resigned on May 5th, 2010.   Kate's new firm, Write Brain Left, Inc. is one we are hoping makes a grab for the work.  Also Kim Doose and her local company, Snap Storm Media.  Both would be excellent candidates.

We remain calling for an immediate pull of the 2010 contract from the Chamber as mounting scandal is moving faster than our City Council.  It is a question of protecting what little remaining legitimacy and dignity this community has where the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is concerned.

As smalltown7 conferenced last night to make final plans on how to move off the Current Watch on the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association now that both goals have been met.

 The goal of protecting public money is in process now after June 3rd. 

The goal of law enforcement awareness of tremendous deception within the Chamber has been and remains being met.

So, what to do from here?

One of the ideas is to start a new section to this SafePlace blog.  "Ongoing Status Watch".  All updates can then be shortened and dropped right in there.  Yes, we are now moving on to finish up what we have on the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce.  Watch here for that Current Watch to move forward.

Thank you, City Council.  Now, get moving to clear us and put as much distance between the citizens and the Chamber as possible as the 9th Judicial District and City of Glenwood Springs begins to clean up the "multiple layers of deception" associated.

Congratulations again, Glenwood Springs.  This is a very, very big win for our community.