Petition drive started to block merger talks between Chambers of Commerce

A board member of the North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce has begun petitioning fellow members in an attempt to block the chamber’s pending merger negotiations with the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.

Board member Jeff Mockbee created the petition Tuesday and has since collected 21 signatures as of Thursday, although former president and CEO of the chamber Curtis Cumming’s name appears three times.

According to the North Las Vegas Chamber’s bylaws, in order to be considered, 20 percent of active members must sign the petition, which calls for the rejection of the merger with the Las Vegas Chamber or any other entity and the removal of all executive board members.

However, Executive Board Member John McMillan said the petition is premature.

"Nothing has been decided yet," he said. "What’s been decided is to open up negotiations for a solution to the chamber’s financial situation."

McMillan said the chamber is in a dreary situation financially, which has been aggravated by the city’s economy and loss of members. The only viable solution, he added, is to seek the financial assistance of the Las Vegas Chamber.

"Somebody’s got to find the money if we want to keep the doors open," McMillan said. "I’ve asked every board member if they had an alternative option to the negotiations … I’ve heard nothing."

The North Las Vegas Chamber has fewer than 500 members, which many members feel is a benefit, providing a more personal, small-town feel than the nearly 6,000-member chamber down the road. Some members of the North Las Vegas Chamber have cited the potential loss of small business-oriented services as their reason for not supporting the merger.

"I basically run my own small business," McMillan, an attorney and founding partner of Flangas McMillan Law Group, said. "I understand and want to maintain (the North Las Vegas Chamber’s) small- business feel. People have to understand that I also have a duty to make sure the chamber is around next month."

Mockbee disagrees, saying there is more to the proposed merger than meets the eye.

"(McMillan) is full of crap," Mockbee said. "If you look at the timeline of events, the executive board (of the North Las Vegas Chamber) has been pushing this deal since January, but the chamber’s financial trouble didn’t begin until about a month ago."

Mockbee added that the chamber, since January, has been above its projected budget month to month through April and that its membership numbers in April had increased from those the year before.

Lana Elliott, the North Las Vegas Chamber’s interim president and CEO, confirmed those statistics.

Mockbee also claims McMillan’s marriage to Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kristin McMillan is a clear conflict of interest.

"They’re gaining a huge new revenue stream of around 250 new members," Mockbee said, adding that approximately half of North Las Vegas Chamber’s members are also currently members of the Las Vegas Chamber. "It’s an agenda the (executive) board has had for a while and they have ramrodded it down the throats of the members."

Cara Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Chamber, said allegations of a conflict of interest are unfounded.

"This has been a board-to-board conversation," she said. "Kristin does not get a vote in that matter."

Kristin McMillan declined to comment. John McMillan dismissed the allegations.

"I wouldn’t gain anything," he said. "I’m off the board in four months. I don’t gain anything."

Roberts added that if the merger were to take place it would provide a "combination of resources that benefit both parties."

"Where we are is a formalized letter of intent allowing the organizations to do the due diligence," she said. "At this time, it’s really business as usual."

Roberts said no timetable is set for negotiations and an increase in membership dues for either chamber has yet to be discussed.

The North Las Vegas Chamber’s executive board is scheduled to address the matter with its members at 8 a.m. today .

Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Nolan Lister at nlister@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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