By Shereen Siewert
City officials this week will likely renew Wausau’s partnership with the Convention and Visitors Bureau under new guidelines, nine months after dissolving the city’s agreement with the tourism entity.
The city terminated its partnership with the CVB in September after discovering the organization’s director collected thousands of dollars in lodging tax from Expedia that normally would have directly gone to Wausau and other cities in the metro area.
The Marathon County Sheriff’s Department last June opened an investigation into CVB Executive Director Richard Barrett’s actions as a possible “theft by fraud,” according to the incident report. But the detective in the case concluded that there was a “lack of communication and coordination” between Barrett and six municipalities including Wausau. Barrett has since retired.
Wausau collects an 8% room tax and a Room Tax Commission oversees how the funds are spent, aligning with requirements of the Wisconsin Room Tax Act. Funds are used to “promote and develop tourism and for the purpose of improving the economic well-being of the entire community,” according to city documents.
In September, Nick Patel, vice-president of the CVB board, urged the finance committee to work with the organization and recognize the contributions made to the community.
“We need to know how we can work together again,” said Patel, in September. “We need to know how we can get the trust, what brought the trust to be broken between Wausau and the CVB. Is it one person? Or is it the whole organization? We just want to work together.”
Wausau chose to sever the city’s contract but has since worked to restore the relationship. During a June 9 Room Tax Commission meeting, Dist. 7 Alder Lisa Rasmussen said that the CVB agreed to Wausau’s requests for increased transparency and seats at the table for important discussions.
City Attorney Anne Jacobson based Wausau’s new contract on one the CVB shares with Rib Mountain, with some tweaks. The new contract proposes a one-year agreement and includes a caveat allowing termination without cause with 30 days notice.
Wausau’s Finance Committee will vote on the matter June 15, followed by the Wausau City Council later the same day.