In a welcome move that is decades overdue, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board on Tuesday imposed tighter controls on the coveted perks afforded those who represent the agency.
The reforms come just weeks after local prosecutors filed felony charges against three former authority executives, including retired CEO Rossi Ralenkotter, involving the use of $90,000 in Southwest Airlines gift cards. They also come in the aftermath of Review-Journal reporting that revealed exorbitant spending on globe-trotting junkets, meals and entertainment at the taxpayer-funded agency.
Among the changes: Members of the 14-person oversight board will no longer be able to accept gifts, and all travel will be more closely monitored to ensure it aligns with the agency’s mission of generating tourism and convention traffic for Southern Nevada.
Politicians representing the Clark County Commission and the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City and Mesquite rotate through the board on a regular basis. The convention authority board has long been considered a plum assignment, given the international travel and prestige that come with it.
Past practices and scandals, however, have tarnished the authority’s reputation.
“We’ve reached that point in time,” said Larry Brown, the county commissioner who currently chairs the LVCVA board, “where the transparency, the accountability, these things are at a high level right now, and I think (the new) board policy does a lot to get there.”
Not to nitpick, but it would have been nice had the board — which oversees an agency with a $251 million budget, courtesy of taxpayers — appreciated the importance of transparency and accountability from the agency’s inception. But progress is progress.
Special commendation goes to Steve Hill, the former head of the state’s economic development efforts, who took over the convention authority last year after Mr. Ralenkotter retired amid scandal. Mr. Hill came into the position understanding that the organization hadn’t “kept up with the times,” adding, “We need to do what it takes to engender the trust of not only elected officials but the industry, our customers and the community.”
Much work remains. But Tuesday’s reforms represent an important step forward and indicate Mr. Hill is serious about transforming the authority’s lavish fiscal tendencies and its long-standing culture of entitlement.