Under the previous Hotel Motel Tax Board and its Tourism Director, a system was created that allowed hotel-motel accommodations outside the city limits of Nauvoo to be represented on the website funded by tax revenues collected by the City. This process appears to be in direct conflict with the state and city statutes and ordinances which govern hotel-motel tax collections. They state that these funds may be used“solely to promote tourism and conventions within the municipality or otherwise to attract nonresident overnight visitors to the municipality.” So, tourism and conventions within the municipality, or to doing other things which would attract nonresident visitors to the municipality. Nothing about promoting competitors to the business within the municipality. In fact the statute (and city ordinance) actually state that the funds cannot be used to “advertise for, or otherwise promote, new competition in the hotel business.”
“solely to promote tourism and conventions within the municipality or otherwise to attract nonresident overnight visitors to the municipality.”
Regardless, the process was implemented, and numerous businesses, still represented on the City’s site today, were added. As we previously reported, each business signed an agreement, and was required to file monthly reports with the City, and to pay a 3% fee for the promotion (in spite of the fact that businesses within the City pay a 7% tax to the City, with the Hotel Motel Board keeping 3.5%). So, under this arrangement, the Tourism Office received 3% and the City received nothing.
funds cannot be used to “advertise for, or otherwise promote, new competition in the hotel business.”
Some additional interesting facts about the Promotion Fee process:
- The address these fees were being sent to is not the City of Nauvoo’s PO Box. For unknown reasons, it was changed when the form was created.
- These payments were not made payable to the City of Nauvoo (as every other payment the City receives is, and law requires), but the form was changed to require they be paid to the “Tourism Office”
- While the agreement required monthly filing of these forms, and payment of these fees, they were routinely filed late, not at all, or incomplete payments were made.
- Late fees required by the contract were not paid when there was a failure to submit the form required.
- Attempts by openNauvoo since April of 2017 to obtain this accounting information to ensure all funds were properly received, submitted to the City, and recorded have been refused by the City’s FOIA Officer. There is a current court complaint relating to this issue, as well as a case with the Attorney General’s Office for review.
Regardless of what issues may arise, it is time for full transparency. A full accounting is needed.