By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
The Dallas Convention and Event Services Department provided the Dallas City Council an update on the proposed VisitDallas amended and restated contract during the City Council briefing Oct. 16.
This update was in response to an audit in January that revealed too much spending and questionable standards by VisitDallas, a not-for-profit organization that promotes Dallas as a business and pleasure destination.
The contract with VisitDallas ends next September and the City Council plans to vote in November on whether or not to renew the contract.
Rosa Fleming, Director of Convention and Event Services for the city, said they are focusing on the existing convention and event services contract with VisitDallas and its allocation of Hotel Occupancy Tax funds.
“We fund VisitDallas to promote tourism and to promote events within Dallas that they can meet the cultural tourism meeting needs and our convention needs in a sale structure from 18 months out up to as far out as 12 years,” Fleming said.
Sam Coats, interim president and CEO of VisitDallas, explained what the organization does for the city.
“Our sole purpose is to market the city of Dallas,” Coats said. “Also, to bring meetings, tourists and conventions to the city. Today, VisitDallas and the city of Dallas are number five in the nation in regards to bringing conventions and events here. In 2019, we sponsored or brought to the city 1,578 events and 10 years ago it was about 502 events. Our budget has doubled from $10 million to $20 million in terms of HOT funds. A lot of good things have happened despite the recent failure in leadership. But since that time we have worked with the city very diligently to fix those items that needed to be corrected and we are continuing to do so.”
Fleming then went over the audit and corrective actions. The Office of the City Auditor released the Audit of VisitDallas Report No. A19-006 Jan. 4, which evaluated the effectiveness of services by VisitDallas between fiscal year 2016 and 2017.
“The audit tested the reliability and reporting of VisitDallas performance measures and their usage of HOT and Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District funds,” Fleming said.
The audit provided 18 recommendations.
The Convention and Event Services and the Office of Economic Development agreed with 11 recommendations and provided alternative remedies for the remaining seven and both departments committed to bringing for the amended and restated contract to City Council by October 2019.”
Fleming said the major concern regarding the nonprofit organization was their financial transparency, and discussed the audit and corrective action plan.
“The first corrective action includes city improved monitoring of expenses, audit, reporting and invoicing data received from VisitDallas, adopted formal procedures for documenting VisitDallas expenses and monitored VisitDallas’ expenses to ensure compliance by analyzing, reviewing and documenting expenses on a random sample basis,” Fleming said. “They also requested that VisitDallas maintains a separate bank account for HOT funds and DTPID funds.”
The second corrective action stated that the city will hire an independent third party to analyze the organization’s performance goals and metrics and ensure formal city approval of VisitDallas’ performance goals.
“It will also provide adequate assurance that key metrics such as economic impact, bookings and consumed activity are independently validated on a periodic basis and relevant supporting historical data is retained,” she continued. “It also is working to factor historical results of events when setting CityWide event bookings performance goals and also monitoring VisitDallas’ compensation practices with particular focus on employee incentive compensation.”
The third corrective action called for VisitDallas, with city input, to engage a third party to analyze and provide feedback on the rea-sonableness and sufficiency of the group’s policies, procedures and backup source data.
The amended and restated contract also called for the Creative Industries Tran-sition of the Dallas Film Commission to VisitDallas upon approval.
“The Commission is responsible for marketing and developing sales strategies to attract business and foster the growth of the creative media industries in Dallas,” Fleming said.
Furthermore, as part of the negotiation process, VisitDallas representatives agreed to increase the retainage fee from 2% to 3%.
“If VisitDallas does not meet the predetermined goals set for each quarter, the retainage reverts to the city of Dallas,” Fleming said.
VisitDallas also proposed a reduction from 55 to 20 voting board members.