Lake County Visitors Bureau…The Good, the Bad, and the VERY “Remarkable” Ugly

pulling back the curtain

We have given you a LOT of background into the affairs of the Lake County Visitors Bureau, Inc. in our article, Lake County Visitors Bureau and the Commissioners…Let’s Make a Deal. As you know from that article, there was a secret meeting between the Lake County Visitors Bureau, Inc. and the Lake County Commissioners held on February 19, which has resulted in an Agreement in principle to give all 3% of the lodging taxes collected by Lake County directly to the Lake County Visitors Bureau with absolutely zero oversight.

We sent an official public records request to the Lake County Commissioners, pursuant to ORC 149.43, for a copy of the fully executed Agreement that the prosecutor’s office produced in draft form. We also asked that they produce a detailed accounting of the allocation of the lodging tax funds from the Tourism Reserve Fund for the period October 2018 through March 2019. Crickets. Today, Lobbyists for Citizens sent a friendly reminder to the Lake County Commissioners that we are still awaiting production of the aforementioned records, and that our records request will be 30 days old as of Friday, May 10.

As far as records requests go, the Lake County Visitors Bureau was only too happy to produce every record we requested prior to that secret meeting because they needed help.  Frankly, we have not really asked for much from the Lake County Visitors Bureau…and only records of a financial nature, which they are bound by ORC Section 149.431 to produce as they take public money. After that secret meeting, everything changed. We wondered why…so we did some more digging, and boy did we hit pay-dirt.

pulling back the curtain

Lobbyists for Citizens gave the President of the Board of the Lake County Visitors Bureau, Inc. (Ms. Sabath) a heads up about something we uncovered that really needs addressing. Everything we’ve uncovered thus far needs addressing, but this is pretty straight-forward and damning. We will post another article with our documentation.

We had hoped that she and the Lake County Visitor Bureau, Inc. Board would do the right thing. Instead, Ms. Sabath tried to convince us that what was done is just fine and dandy…nothing to see here. She actually stated the following in an email to us on the matter: “The LCVB is funded by a bed tax from people who stay at hotels in Lake County. That is not the same as taxpayer money.” Bwah ha ha ha! Seriously? That is truly a REMARKABLE comment!

Hmmmm image

We really wonder if sometimes the Commissioners are experiencing a momentary lapse of judgement when appointing people to various boards. Unless….they are doing the quid pro quo thing for friends, donors, political consultants, and members of the entrenched establishment in Lake County on both sides of the aisle…we see a lot of “back-scratching” going on…we will save that for another article.

When she stated that there was no problem with the VB’s actions, we prepared formal complaints to four State agencies (Ohio AG, Ohio Secretary of State, Ohio Ethics Commission, and the Ohio Auditor).

In a previous letter to the AG, we requested that he provide a legal opinion on whether paying operating expenses for the Lake County Ohio Port & Economic Development Authority is proper under the ORC. As we stated in our article, Port Authority and the Visitors Bureau…Joined by a Coastal Manager and the ORC, we believe that what all three entities have done over the past 6 years (Lake County Ohio Port & Economic Development Authority, Lake County Visitors Bureau, Inc., and the Lake County Commissioners) is not allowed under ORC Section 5739.09.

Anyhoo…we filed another formal complaint against the Lake County Visitors Bureau, Inc. with the same four state agencies yesterday, May 4, regarding the irregularities with their non-profit status. We told you a bit about those irregularities in our article, Visitors Bureau and Commissioners…Holding a Public Meeting in Private.

Our final letter has been prepared…on the real questionable stuff we mentioned above…and will be mailed to all four state agencies tomorrow, May 6. Given what has occurred in Pike County, well let’s just say this new complaint will likely open some eyes at the Ohio Ethics Commission and the Ohio Auditor’s Office. Stay tuned for our next article on that.

We were so hopeful that our fearless leaders would do the right thing, especially when presented with empirical proof. Unfortunately, it appears we were wrong about the leaders in Lake County. You will know them by their fruits, and actions speak louder than words.

We are concerned about the recent obstruction…slow-walking or outright refusal to produce official records requests made by Lobbyists for Citizens pursuant to ORC Section 149.43, and even being removed from the meeting between the Commissioners and the Lake County Visitors Bureau, Inc. on February 19 by Commissioner Jerry Cirino.

You should be asking yourself this question…if LFC was not specifically asked to be present, how in the heck would we have known about the date, time, and location of that meeting? For the record, it was the Lake County Visitors Bureau, Inc. that requested the meeting with the Commissioners.  It is our opinion, that Cirino had no authority to remove the LFC representative from a meeting called by the Executive Director of the Visitors Bureau. We will let the state decide if there was a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

In her most recent email to Lobbyists for Citizens relative to the matter we will be sending to the state on May 6, Ms. Sabath said that the Lake County Visitors Bureau has nothing to hide…they’ve done nothing wrong. Alrighty then, why did the Lake County Visitors Bureau refuse, in writing by email from it’s Board President, to produce financial records specific to the matter, as we told you about in our article Visitors Bureau…Nothing to See Here Folks…Keep Moving…It’s Only Your Money? Contradictions cannot exist…one premise is wrong. We will see what the State of Ohio rules on this issue.

It is a sad day for Lake County when people are overheard in the hallways after Board meetings asking their lawyers how they can thwart records requests made by Lake County citizens…and then they make good on that course of action by just not producing. As we have told you many times, some of our records requests are over 2 months old.

Lobbyists for Citizens exists because we want honesty and transparency in government, and to ensure no one is “feathering their own nest” at the expense of the taxpayers…period!  We believe that justice should be BLIND, i.e. not two sets of justice…one for the ivory tower crowd and another one for the people they rule.

We have brought very real concerns to the Lake County Commissioners about two entities in Lake County that need to be dealt with, i.e. the Lake County Ohio Port & Economic Development Authority and the Lake County Visitors Bureau, Inc. BOTH ENTITIES ARE FUNDED BY PUBLIC MONEY, AND THE COMMISSIONERS APPROVE ALL OF IT AS WELL AS THE APPOINTMENT OF THEIR BOARD MEMBERS…THEY NEED TO EXERCISE OVERSIGHT NOW SINCE THE RESPECTIVE BOARDS ARE NOT PROVIDING PROPER OVERSIGHT!

As you know, we do extensive research, and we provide empirical proof; but so far, with the exception of Commissioner Hamercheck, it all falls on deaf ears in Lake County government. Not only that, it appears that the Lake County entrenched establishment types are only too happy to circle the wagons and protect their little fiefdoms.

It appears they would rather cover up than clean up all the while attempting to impugn the character of the bringers of truth and facts. It truly is disappointing and despicable. We will let the State of Ohio, and the court of public opinion decide…The 2020 elections are not far off……

DEAR LAKE COUNTY CITIZEN…MEET THE NEW BOSS…SAME AS THE OLD BOSS!



Categories: Lake County, Uncategorized, Visitors Bureau

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3 replies

  1. If Commissioner Cirino, the Port Authority, and the Visitor’s Bureau have nothing to hide, then why are they playing hardball on the records requests? Could it be that they are trying to hide something? Or maybe there is a good explanation that hasn’t yet been made public?

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  1. Can You Connect the Dots? – VB / Port Authority / My Board – It is REMARKABLE – Lobbyists for Citizens

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