Memo to Tom Mitchell:
I’d like to make a constructive suggestion that we learn from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s ways of conducting business. Those two stories last week by my colleagues A.D. Hopkins and Benjamin Spillman, based on research by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, really gave me some ideas that you should consider implementing.
First, I’d like a stamp with your name on it so I could self-approve my expenses over $500. (Actually, I’d like to rack up some expenses over $500. Those $25 lunch receipts I submit are really kind of embarrassing when you think about it, especially when that’s the cost for two people.)
Frankly, we need to emulate the way the convention authority operates. For example, look at the leeway it gives R&R Partners, the company that has held its advertising and public relations contract for nearly 30 years. The convention authority developed such a cozy relationship with R&R that the last time the contract went out for bid in 1999, it was at the suggestion of R&R principal Billy Vassiliadis, not the authority.
Someone at the authority was supposed to pre-approve certain R&R expenses in excess of $500. But it saved time and effort to just give someone at R&R a stamp to be used for approval.
I want a stamp like that.
It would save a lot of time and effort for you. You can trust me to use it appropriately. You don’t need to verify. When he said “trust but verify,” Ronald Reagan was talking about the Russians. We’re all Americans.
Now the convention authority has taken its stamp back following an audit in 2007, but the Las Vegas Review-Journal is a private business and can do as it pleases. Really, it’s a question of efficiency.
Second, I’d like to be honored as a humanitarian, and that takes lots of moolah. Let’s follow the lead of convention authority President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter. When he found out he and his wife would be receiving the humanitarian award from the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, Ralenkotter did the right thing. He wrote a $25,000 check. Oh, not from his checking account, but from the authority’s account, which gets most of its $284 million annual budget from room taxes.
Since the convention authority board has authorized him to spend up to $100,000 without bothering them for approval, he didn’t have anyone from the board looking over his shoulder when he decided this was a legitimate way to promote tourism. Sure, skeptics like those folks at the Nevada Policy Research Institute might view it as self-promotion, but then some of their members and benefactors wouldn’t mind seeing the authority eliminated.
Mitch, I’m humanitarian material. Let’s pony up a few bucks to some worthy charity, preferably one in Nevada.
Surely I can be honored as a “Good Girl” in somebody’s book. Maybe not one of the charities I’ve criticized for exceedingly high overhead expenses, like the Miracle Flights for Kids.
Doubt that Las Vegas Events would want to honor me, unless officials there have forgotten those columns in 2005 asking why so much of its operations (and $8 million budget) are secret. Remember, Las Vegas Events gets its funding from the convention authority.
The reason we should follow the authority’s lead is that despite years of questioning by the news media about its lavish spending and lax accounting, it never changes. Obviously, it has a business plan that works. Board members charged with oversight happily push the yes button when agenda items are presented. After all, it’s not their money, so saving it isn’t a real priority. The board didn’t have to approve Ralenkotter’s $25,000 charitable donation, because they don’t want to be bothered approving anything less than $100,000.
Oversight? What oversight? Trust is the name of the game.
In summary, the convention authority is a trailblazer and we should follow in its footsteps, so may I have a stamp to approve my own expense reports? And could the R-J buy me a Good Girl award, not for my own self-aggrandizement, but to improve the image of the paper?
Let’s learn from the masters at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the public body that acts like it’s not. And gets away with it, decade after decade.
cc: Sherman Frederick
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison/