Contract raises legal issues for Buffalo City Tourism FoundationThe future autonomy of the Buffalo City Tourism Foundation came into question Friday as members learned its organizational structure could potentially be illegal.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
The future autonomy of the Buffalo City Tourism Foundation came into question Friday as members learned its organizational structure could potentially be illegal.
According to Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen, City Attorney Ken Dalsted had researched the issue while preparing a new contract for BCTF, whose current contract expires at the end of the year.
Dalsted found some case law that indicated BCTF’s current structure may not be legal. According to Andersen, Dalsted’s research is not finished, and he will likely work on the issue more in early November.
BCTF has about 15 members, who are nominated by members of the BCTF and then approved by the Jamestown City Council. The City Council can also choose to withhold funding from the BCTF, but cannot veto its decisions or give orders to its employees.
The case law concerned could potentially prevent the city from controlling the membership of a board of a non-city entity, said Alden Kohlman, member of the BCTF executive board.
Should the BCTF be unable to continue with its current structure, it will be left with two options — becoming a department within the city of Jamestown or spinning off into a completely separate entity. If it is spun off it would be completely independent and the city would contract with it.
If the BCTF became a city department, its director — currently Nina Sneider, who will retire in March — would be a city department head. Other employees would become city employees, and the city might be able to offer more resources and interdepartmental cooperation, Andersen suggested.
However, the BCTF’s board would become an advisory board, and the Jamestown City Council would hire any future directors, as it does all city department heads.
“It scares me, to give away the autonomy that was part of the original reason for developing Buffalo City Tourism (Foundation),” Kohlman said.
Andersen said all current employees would be retained and that not much would change.
Kohlman pointed out that if in two years the people in city government change, the BCTF’s autonomy would be gone by then and they would “have no recourse but put up and shut up.”
Andersen said the city’s current contract with BCTF stated the city can give that money to another entity.
“It’s different to take away our funding than to take away our autonomy,” Kohlman said.
Pam Phillips, another member of the BCTF executive committee, said more research was needed into how other tourism foundations were handling the changes in the law.
During the meeting, Andersen also questioned BCTF’s practice of giving grants only to not-for-profit organizations.
“I don’t know of anybody else that is a nonprofit foundation that gives to for-profit (groups),” Sneider said. “I don’t think we can use tax money to give to for-profits.”
Anderson suggested changing the BCTF’s mission statement to allow it to fund quality-of-life projects, or projects geared toward keeping people in town for events rather than traveling elsewhere, such as the Independence Day fireworks display.
City Councilman Charlie Kourajian said he believed the BCTF was doing well.
“I would hesitate to change anything and I’m really anxious to see if there’s any changes in case law …” Kourajian said. “If Dalsted says we’re just fine I don’t see any reason to change anything.”
In other news Friday, the BCTF:
* is investigating the possibility of having fireworks next year on July 4 rather than July 6, at the request of Jamestown Speedway. Speedway officials want to have a different event on July 6.
* accepted a proposal from Great Stories Books to take all the tourism brochures and put them into a downloadable e-book format. People will be able to download the e-book for free, and BCTF will pay Great Stories Books 50 cents per download, with a cap of $1,000.
It was estimated that 100 copies would be downloaded per month, which would cost the BCTF $50.
* is continuing its search for a new director. It has received three applications and two email inquiries.
The group set the salary range from $45,000 to $65,000 for the position, negotiable based on experience.
It hopes to hire someone by mid-January.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be
reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at email@example.com