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LVCVA’s chief marketing officer resigns amid investigations

Updated April 17, 2019 - 4:21 pm

Cathy Tull, chief marketing officer for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, has resigned amid separate investigations by the Metropolitan Police Department and the Review-Journal into the public agency’s misspending.

CEO Steve Hill confirmed that Tull left the agency on Tuesday, but he did not provide details.

Hill praised Tull in a statement Wednesday to convention authority employees.

“Cathy’s work helped establish the LVCVA as the world’s top destination marketing organization, and we thank her for more than a decade of dedicated service,” he wrote.

Tull’s resignation came just two days after a Review-Journal story was published in the newspaper exposing her role in helping former CEO Rossi Ralenkotter obtain free British Airways upgrades for his wife and daughter. Tull also received upgrades for her then-husband and sister, records show.

Tull, who has worked at the LVCVA since 2005, could not be reached for comment. As of 2017, Tull earned nearly $366,000 in annual salary and benefits, records show.

Last month, Tull was named in the growing criminal investigation into the theft of Southwest Airlines gift cards bought by the convention authority during Ralenkotter’s tenure.

Tull was identified in a police report obtained by the newspaper as using nearly $6,000 in gift cards on 18 flights, mostly for her husband and two sons. Authority spokeswoman Jackie Dennis said Tull recently reimbursed the tourism agency.

Ralenkotter, who retired in August with a $455,000 financial package that included a consulting contract, paid back $17,000 in personal travel he took with Southwest gift cards. He has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Dennis said the convention authority intends to seek “restitution” from former agency executive Brig Lawson, the leading target in the police investigation, and his longtime partner, Phil Reynolds.

Gift cards probe

Lawson, who was forced to resign last May as executive director of business partnerships, hid the purchase of $90,000 in Southwest Airlines gift cards between 2012 and 2017 in financial records promoting the airline, police allege.

He was arrested last month on a felony theft charge after police searched the LVCVA’s offices, seizing seven years of electronic records related to the gift cards.

Reynolds, an entertainment manager and booking agent, purchased 29 flights with more than $9,200 in Southwest cards, the police report shows.

Reynolds, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, had a contract with the convention authority until the agency learned he was in a “dating relationship” with Lawson and saw it as a conflict of interest, the report states.

Lawson’s lawyer, Russell Marsh, declined to comment.

The 11-page police report, which blacks out names but not all references to Tull and Reynolds, shows police believe a conspiracy existed to steal the Southwest Airlines gift cards. The report also discloses that detectives found a significant number of missing gift cards and now know who used most of them. Auditors couldn’t account for $50,000 worth of gift cards.

The report says that either Tull, who was one of Lawson’s supervisors, or someone with her authority approved funding for the agency’s Southwest promotions that masked the gift card purchases.

But police do not know whether Tull had any involvement in the alleged scheme.

“This is not to say that the conspiracy did not exist, just that any evidence of Tull working in concert with Lawson has yet to be discovered,” the police report says.

Emails show that Lawson also was a central figure in the efforts to get the free upgrades from British Airways.

The Review-Journal on Sunday disclosed that more than a half-dozen instances occurred between 2012 and 2016 in which Ralenkotter, Tull and other executives sought or obtained upgrades for their family members from British Airways.

In some cases, emails show, Ralenkotter directed staff to get him better seats.

The convention authority’s travel coordinator, Jean Burdett, flagged a 2012 Ralenkotter request as problematic, emails show. “BA’s policy is very strictly adhered to, especially since we are affiliated with Clark County and this would be considered a payoff or a bribe to a government official,” Burdett wrote to Tull’s assistant, suggesting her concerns came from British Airways representatives.

Lawson found Simon Brooks, a British Airways senior vice president of sales, to provide the upgrades for Ralenkotter’s wife and daughter, agency emails show. LVCVA staff subsequently gave Brooks thousands of dollars worth of meals and show tickets on the Strip at taxpayer expense, records show.

British Airways has not allowed Brooks to be interviewed, but the company said in a recent statement that it is conducting an internal investigation related to the upgrades.

Ralenkotter contends the personal favors from British Airways were part of the agency’s “relationship building” with the company. He has declined to discuss the upgrades for his wife and daughter.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands Corp. operates the Sands Expo &Convention Center, which competes with the LVCVA-operated Las Vegas Convention Center.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0286. Follow @JGermanRJ and @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Reporter Richard N. Velotta contributed to this story.

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