Visitors Bureau director resigns

October 30, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

Ben Hart has resigned his position as executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau at the request of Ron Vitkun, the chairman of the bureau's board of directors, Vitkun said Wednesday.

Hart's last day was Monday, Vitkun said.

Vitkun said Hart, of Hagerstown, was placed on temporary leave during an "investigation," and later was asked to resign. He would not say what the investigation entailed or who conducted it.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau has "systems in place, the system worked," Vitkun said.

The actions in question "had to do with policy and procedure and rules were broken," he said.

Vitkun said he consulted with the Convention and Visitors Bureau's board of directors before asking Hart to resign. "That was not an easy decision," he said.


Vitkun said he could not provide more details about the matter at this time.

Repeated attempts to reach Hart at his office Tuesday and Wednesday were unsuccessful. His home telephone line was busy between 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Vitkun said he has started forming a search committee to find a replacement for Hart.

In the interim, Vitkun said, he will spend more time meeting with bureau staff.

As executive director, Hart was responsible for all operational and administrative aspects of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, including marketing, sales and public relations.

Hagerstown City Police Lt. Rick Johnson, of the Criminal Investigation Unit, said Wednesday that members of the Convention and Visitors Bureau approached investigators within the last week. Johnson, who would not provide details of that contact, said the Convention and Visitors Bureau officials had not filed a complaint and police were not conducting an investigation.

"The visitors bureau has contacted us, but a specific report has not been filed," Johnson said.

A 1979 graduate of the University of Colorado, Hart has been executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau since 1997, following a three-year stint as executive director of the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau in North Dakota.

According to his resume, Hart worked in Colorado for nearly two decades - as president and owner of Hart of the Rockies Tours in Denver from 1986 to 1994, as executive director of the Colorado Tourism Board from 1983 to 1986, and as director of tourism for the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Among the professional awards Hart listed on his resume were the Travel Industry Association of America's National Travel Marketing Award, the Colorado Sales and marketing Person of the Year and the United States Air Force Academy's Airman of the Year Award. His resume did not list the years he received those awards.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau was an arm of Washington County government until July 1, 1997, when it became a private enterprise. The main reason the bureau was privatized was because some members wanted more of its money spent on promotion and marketing and less on administrative costs, Hart has said.

Hart's salary was not available Wednesday.

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