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Details emerge in CVB flap

November 07, 2003

Elsewhere on this page is a letter from Ron Vitkun, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau, commenting on the recent forced resignation of the group's executive director.

Vitkun makes the case that the review mechanism in place worked, uncovering problems with finances that are now the subject of a police investigation.

He also asserts that the CVB does more than benefit its member businesses - the hotels, motels and other attractions of Washington County. As room-tax revenue increases, the county commissioners have more money to devote to economic development and areas far removed from the area of tourism, like town libraries.

Vitkun's letter is in part a response to an editorial which appeared this past Monday, an editorial that took the Washington County Commissioners to task for not keeping a closer eye on the group.

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We emphasized then that CVB might be doing a great job, but that the commissioners would have a hard time making that case, since at the time they didn't even have a copy of CVB's budget.

Is it wrong to trust volunteer boards? No, but as President Ronald Reagan said in another context, "Trust, but verify." At the very least, the county board should know who's on the CVB board and have a current copy of its budget.

At best the commissioners should have a better idea of how CVB's mission fits in with their own. The grants made with the portion of the room-tax revenue controlled by the commissioners all appear to be worthy projects, but if there's anything like a strategy that links them to a vision or a goal the county is trying to accomplish, we can't discern it.

The county board might also take a lesson from the openness with which CVB has handled this matter.

Compared to the county's ham-fisted, secretive handling of Economic Development Director John Howard's departure, it's hard to say what, if anything, CVB could have done better in this case.

As the investigation continues, additional comments may be appropriate. For now we're glad CVB has chosen to share what it can with the public.

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