By LEAH STRATMANN
In what turned out to be the final meeting of the year for the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC), board members voted unanimously to adopt the strategic plan worked out in September and present it to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) for approval. The meeting was held at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center so board members could see the facility and contemplate how eco-friendly tours might be incorporated into the overall recreation and destination packages promoted by the TDC.
In giving the executive director’s report, Dawn Moliterno noted that before her tenure in the position began, the BCC called for a review of credit card receipts received through April 2010.
“The accounting firm of Carr, Ingram and Riggs performed the review and overall found there was no widespread abuse, although there were some questionable uses of the card. We have been actively working to make sure there is proper oversight for all expenditures,” she said.
“In the end it was a positive process and allowed us to thoroughly understand the way the county processes expenditures. As part of the review process, we also wanted to make sure our contracts were also in compliance. Two of those contracts are not in compliance. The one with Majority Research for $250,000 a year will now have to go out for Request for Qualifications (RFQ).” The other contract to Fine Productions, the producer of the public relations spots purchased with BP money, was also not in compliance, but the speed with which the TDC had to spend the money mitigates the regular procedures for such expenditures, she noted.
County attorney Lynn Hoshihara said, “Florida statues require TDC councils be on a staggered basis and not every seat on this TDC complies with the statutes. We currently have some members serving for four years, some for six, etc. In order to come into compliance, we need to open all nine seats on the TDC council. In doing this, I ask that the TDC hold meetings quarterly to reach compliance.” Hoshihara then introduced Clay Adkinson as the new counsel for the TDC.
Council member Don McQuade asked, “Do we need to do something?”
Adkinson explained that TDC seats are created by BCC resolution and identified as class A, B, and C with corresponding terms of service from three to five years, with everyone then converting to four year terms if they continue, thus creating the staggered effect. “The original resolution did not specify what seats each person filled. The only way to make sure this is corrected going forward is to re-open all the seats. It is not planned to remove anyone from the board. We ask for unanimous action by the board to open the seats,” he said.
Two board member seats are allocated to elected officials. Right now chairman Maurice Gilbert and Mike Stange, both of who were elected to serve on the South Walton Fire District board, serve in that capacity, although Stange is retiring. Three seats are reserved for owner/operators of short-term rental units, two seats are for interested individuals who are not owner operators and the last seat can either be an owner operator or another interested individual. It should be noted there is no compensation for service to the TDC.
McQuade said, “My experience has been in how the seats have been filled, there has been a effort to make sure they were filled correctly. The fact that we got out of whack is just a matter of coincidence over time.”
Moliterno noted, “We will go through a normal process with a legal notice with two weeks for people to apply for any of the open seats. There is an application that needs to be filled out. They are specific seats allocated. After applications come back in, they go before the BCC for evaluation and the BCC would actually vote. The TDC role would be to facilitate that. In the future we will go to quarterly meetings,” she said. Moliterno pointed out that even though statues call for quarterly public meetings, board meetings may be called more often and it is her intention to attend every meeting of the BCC.
A motion was made to re-open the entire TDC board member seats and recommend those seats be filled with the recommendations provided by the BCC. A roll call vote was taken with Moliterno noting that absent members Ken Gifford and Steve Hilliard agreed to the motion and documentation will be provided to that effect. The roll call vote was unanimous.
Adkinson pointed out that moving forward, the BCC would have full overview of when members’ terms expire.
Unless a special meeting is called, there will not be another TDC meeting until March 2011….
Read the full story in the Nov. 18, 2010 edition of the Herald Breeze.