LFC vs Lake County Visitors Bureau

LFC Comments by Brian Massie – President of LFC:

We are using this opportunity to explain to Lake County and Ohio taxpayers about using the Ohio Court of Claims when government entities do not comply with the Ohio Sunshine Laws.

“Ohio’s Public Records and Open Meetings laws, collectively known as the “Sunshine Laws,” give Ohioans access to government meetings and records. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office helps public officials and citizens understand their rights and responsibilities under these laws.”

https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Legal/Sunshine-Laws

In the past, we have written several articles about the Lake County Visitors Bureau. It is our position that the Visitors Bureau, although they are a registered 501 (C) (6) Non-Profit, are a functional equivalent of a public body and, therefore, subject to the Ohio’s Sunshine laws.

We had four courses of action we could have taken:

  1. Basically, forget the whole sordid affair because as Ms. Amy Sabath, VB’s Board President, said in our pre-arranged meeting, I’m the only person complaining about the Visitors Bureau. What Ms. Sabath fails to understand is that I never give up, and never give in when I know that I have a solid foundation of the truth.
  2. I could try to convince the Lake County Commissioners, all three being “conservative” Republicans, that they should defund the current Visitors Bureau and fund a new government entity that operates as the new Visitors Bureau subject to Ohio’s Sunshine Laws. Although they agree with LFC on this issue, as does Mr. Dave Hackman, assistant prosecutor, it is a political ‘hot potato” that they apparently do not have the appetite to tackle; and two of the three are running for re-election in November 2021. They are also afraid of lawsuits between government entities. (Honestly, I’m not sure what “conservative” really means anymore…it is just a label that is used to get votes.)
  3. We could have filed another pro se lawsuit, but the court system takes 2 years to render a decision. It is also a very expensive process for all parties, and not easy for the average citizen to navigate.
  4. We could file a complaint with the Ohio Court of Claims. For $25.00 and with a simple form to complete, this was our preferred option.

Here is a link to the website dealing with the Ohio Court of Claims:

https://ohiocourtofclaims.gov/public-records-forms.php

Here is a short video with me addressing the Lake County Commissioners, and telling them exactly what I’m going to do with the Court of Claims. No one can accuse me of “blind-siding” them on this issue.

Here are the documents that we filed with the Ohio Court of Claims:

Please note that on the 2019 Form 990 filed with the I.R.S. the Visitors Bureau reported income of $1,124,810. It all came from government grants and hotel excise tax. They reported no income from memberships dues, which is required by I.R.S. rules for a 501 (c) (6) Non-Profit.

We believe that it is totally inappropriate for a non-profit entity to receive the overwhelming majority of its revenue from the taxpayers and not be accountable to the Commissioners or the taxpayers. Transparency is absolutely necessary for good governance.

We will let our readers know what happens when we hear from the Court of Claims.

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