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Mayor Wants To Pull CVB From The Chamber

    If Mayor Barry Brucker is right, the City’s independent performance audit of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Chamber will recommend that the Conference and Visitors Bureau, now run by the Chamber under contract, must be separated from the Chamber.

   Brucker has made it no secret he wants the CVB taken from the Chamber, because he is concerned it is not being run properly. He pointed to the line item in the non-profit’s budget called “chamber crossover,” which calls for 58 percent of the $312,733 budgeted ($181,385.14) to pay for CEO Dan Walsh’s salary. He  said he wants the CVB run like a business, and no business he knows of has such a line item.

   “It has always been something I’ve been interested in, given some of the crossover fund issues,” Brucker said. “We would get more bang for our buck … with taxpayer money if we found another way to run the CVB, either as an independent or under the umbrella of the City.

   ”Brucker says he believes there is such a line item because the Chamber fails to support itself.

   “Because the CVB pays so much of Dan’s salary, it concerns me,” Brucker said. “The CVB … should be a small contributor to Dan’s salary.

   ”For months, Walsh has refused to respond to questions from city councilmembers, The Courier, and Chamber members about his compensation, 88 percent of which is paid by the City.  He is paid more than the fire or police chiefs.  Walsh this week said in an e-mail he doesn’t feel he should comment on the CVB’s future location until the audit is completed.

   “As for my salary and the portion allocated to the CVB, though the CVB Director executes and delivers the programming, a great deal of my time goes to the CVB,” Walsh’s e-mail concluded.

   Whether Brucker gets his wish remains to be seen. The performance audit was due to of the city council’s Chamber ad hoc committee (Brucker, Councilwoman Linda Briskman, City Manager Rod Wood, Assistant City Manager Katie Lichtig and City Director of Economic Development and Marketing Alison Maxwell) on Wednesday, with the full City Council reviewing it in time for its Aug. 5 meeting.

   CVB Director Kathy Smits said she knows it’s more common for CVBs (often called Convention and Visitors Bureau elsewhere) to be separate from a city’s chamber, and she sees pros and cons to moving the CVB. But ultimately, she said, she wants whatever is best for the community.

   “It will be interesting to see what the next steps are,” Smits said.

   Wood said it’s premature to speculate on the next steps until the audit is released and the council discusses it. He said it is up to the council to determine the costs of transitioning the CVB and then direct him to figure out how to make any moves.

   Wood has experience with all three arrangements.  In Escondido, its CVB was part of the chamber, in Palm Springs it was an independent entity, and in Novato it was a city agency.

   However, he added, Beverly Hills is nothing like those three.

   “You can’t look at Beverly Hills based on geographic size and population,” Wood said. “It’s as well known as New York, Chicago, London, Paris. It has a different kind of marketing need altogether.

   ”No major U.S. city’s CVB is affiliated with its local chamber of commerce.

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