Wife of tourism chief was 'paid volunteer'

September 04, 1997


Staff Writer

Ron Stansbury, the president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitor's Bureau board of directors, said Thursday morning his wife was working as a "paid volunteer" at the bureau's downtown center.

Within hours after a reporter questioned him about the situation, he said his wife, Flo, would not be paid for the volunteer work she does.

Flo Stansbury was to be paid $6 an hour and had worked about 30 hours over the past two weeks, he said. A check made out to her for those hours was returned to the Convention and Visitor's Bureau Thursday, he said.


Stansbury said the check was returned because he didn't want to start a controversy.

The bureau has three other part-time "volunteers" who will continue to be paid, Stansbury said.

"We call them volunteers but we pay our volunteers," he said. "They're all doing a pretty good job."

The volunteers replaced county workers who were furloughed from their jobs on July 1.

Stansbury said anybody who wants to become a paid volunteer may call the tourism office. He originally said his wife would be happy to step aside for someone else who knew the county.

Stansbury said he had searched for volunteers in the community, and had contacted Hagerstown Junior College and the Washington County Commission on Aging.

Stansbury said he didn't have time to advertise the positions because he didn't know until July 1 whether county employees would continue to staff the office.

The county had agreed to pay for full-time employees until September, but the employees asked to be furloughed so that the uncertainty about their jobs would end.

When the commissioners agreed and laid off on July 1 any employees who did not retire or move to other departments, Stansbury said he needed to find people in the community fast to answer phones, greet people and drive brochures to the Sideling Hill exhibit center.

The positions are not permanent and Ben Hart, the bureau's new executive director, will have the final say on who is hired at the bureau, he said. Hart was out of town at a trade show Thursday.

County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said he spent 90 minutes Thursday talking to people critical of the hiring of Stansbury's wife.

"Had the newspaper not been tipped off that it was happening and had the newspaper not investigated it ... we would have had a situation that would not be a good situation," Bowers said.

Although the bureau is a private entity, that doesn't mean it won't be under public scrutiny, Bowers said.

"Certainly, it's improper to hire family members," said Commissioner James R. Wade.

Wade said the situation shows that there is a need for someone to be accountable to the public because taxpayer dollars are paying for the convention and visitor's bureau.

The bureau is funded by a hotel room tax that is funneled through the County Commissioners.

Convention and Visitor's Board Vice President Jim Kell said it was his understanding that the hiring of Stansbury's wife was "a very temporary thing" until Hart has time to hire permanent staff.

Hart has hired two permanent staff people to fill marketing and executive secretary positions, Stansbury said.

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