SHAWNEE — After appearing to reconcile in January, the city of Shawnee and its chamber of commerce appear once again to be at odds.
During a recent city commission meeting, elected officials decided not to renew the chamber's contract, which expires in June.
Commissioner Steve Smith, who represents Ward 6, asked that the approval of the new contract be postponed until an audit is performed on the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber is apparently having trouble finding a firm to perform the audit after its longtime auditor opted not to do it this year.
Nancy Keith, president and CEO of the chamber, said many nonprofits and similar entities are experiencing the same issues.
“We were able to maintain the same auditor for over a decade, but he and his partners, as most auditing firms, find our type of organization very time consuming,” Keith said. “The chamber has been hesitant to use outside auditors, as we have traditionally used those that are members of the chamber.
“While waiting for all (bids) to return, time simply got away from us.”
Smith said he recommended delaying the contract renewal because city policy demands that all “vendor” agencies, like the chamber of commerce, be audited each year.
“We've done this before with other vendors,” he said. “It's just a rule.”
In the past, 99 percent of a hotel surcharge collected by the city of Shawnee has been funneled to the chamber to promote the city through a convention and visitors bureau.
City officials have said the hotel surcharge tax typically generates roughly $475,000 each year.
Smith said he has requested information from the chamber in the past but has been given the runaround at times.
“I've been asking for financial statements for quite some time but they haven't given me what I asked for a lot of the time,” he said. “We are responsible for making sure all taxpayer dollars are handled appropriately.
“But again, I don't know if it's a situation because they won't give me what I'm asking for.”
Keith denies the chamber has failed to supply the information Smith has requested in the past.
Recent feud lingers
In August, a lawsuit was filed after elected officials abruptly terminated the contract between the chamber and city of Shawnee. The contract had been in place for nearly 20 years at the time.
Lawyers for the chamber asked a judge to stop the Shawnee City Commission from severing the ties between the two entities in such a hasty manner.
The lawsuit filed by the chamber was dismissed in January after the city commission voted to approve a new contract between the two entities.