Shawnee, chamber of commerce, reconcile differences

Nearly five months after unofficially cutting ties and filing lawsuits against each other, the city of Shawnee and the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce have reconciled. The city is about 40 miles east of Oklahoma City.
by Andrew Knittle Published: January 7, 2013
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Nearly five months after unofficially cutting ties and filing lawsuits against each other, the city of Shawnee and its chamber of commerce have reconciled.

Monday night during its first meeting of 2013, the Shawnee City Commission approved a new contract between the city and the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber's board of directors approved the same contract in late December.

The commission voted 6 to 1 to approve the contract. Only Ward 6 Commissioner Steve Smith voted against it.

“There's just too many things wrong there,” Smith said of the new contract. “I have to check out some other things before I offer more of a comment.”

Smith said he recently requested emails from the city of Shawnee and the chamber as he sought more information about the contract negotiations between the two entities.

“I got the ones from the city,” he said. “The chamber, well, they just never responded. I have a problem with that.”

Hotel tax

At stake is the nearly $500,000 generated each year by the city of Shawnee's hotel occupancy surcharge.

Under the terms of the new contract, the chamber will continue to receive up to 99 percent of the hotel tax but will be subject to more oversight by the city.

Land deal

One of the more prominent changes in the new operating agreement focuses on a 2009 land deal between the chamber and a power company, a transaction discussed at length in court filings made by a city attorney in August.

The chamber will have to deed the prime real estate off Interstate 40 over to the city. The land is intended to be the site of a visitors center for people traveling in and around Shawnee.

The new contract will not allow the chamber to charge rent to the Shawnee Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is administered and operated by the chamber itself.

In the past, the chamber had charged the visitors bureau about $8,000 each year in rent.

Other smaller changes, including a requirement that the chamber keep an inventory of such things as office supplies, are included in the contract.

Consultant

A letter from Shawnee City Manager Brian McDougal to the city commission, in which he discusses the changes made to the contract, also includes a very specific caveat for an out-of-state consultant.

“(The) Chamber agrees to retain the services of Bill Geist to do an analysis of the operations, goals, and methods of governance of the CVB and to assist the City Officials, Chamber Staff, CVB Staff … with its management and governance of the CVB,” McDougal wrote in the letter, which was dated Jan. 3. “Payment for these services shall come from the proceeds of the Hotel Tax.”


by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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