Auditor Blasts Fast-And-Loose Spending By Tourism Bureau Under Nicki Grossman

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

 

 

Broward’s tourism and convention bureau routinely violated the county’s and state spending rules for years, according to a critical audit released this week.

Among the shocking findings:

  • Former Tourism Czar Nicki Grossman handed out $178,000 in sales commissions over two years to 14 members of her staff – extra pay based on hotel rooms sold — without having any proof of results, the audit stated.

The audit of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Tourism and Convention Bureau began in June 2016.  Grossman retired after 21 years the same month and was replaced by Stacy Ritter, a former county commissioner.

 

 

Nicki Grossman

 

The findings paint an agency under Grossman that played fast-and-loose with public money, roughly $30 million-a-year in hotel room taxes paid annually by visitors.

The audit also appears to explain one reason why higher-ups in the tourism bureau opposed Ritter’s appointment, preferring a new boss from their own ranks: They benefitted from the easy way Grossman spent money.

Auditors found that $178,000 sales commissions – 50 cents-per-room night sold that surpassed annual employee goals – in 2014 and 2015 were apparently paid county staffers on Grossman’s word alone.

“We were unable to reconcile booked room nights in the CVB database to the room nights used as a basis to calculate sales commissions reviewed. We also noted there were no written criteria for determining room night goals for different job classifications and no verification of booked room nights by CVB management. Without adequate supporting documentation and independent review, unjustified sales commissions may be paid,” the audit stated, using the abbreviation for the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Ritter has agreed to institute changes to correct all the findings of the audit.

The audit also found:

  • Five employees were given cell phones without justification and without anyone checking whether they were being used for business.
  • Business meals and travels were not documented with proper receipts as required by county policy and state law. Due to the lack of documentation, the audits could not determine whether the meals and travel were proper.
  • Tourism incentives and sponsorships were paid in advance without any prior approvals. “Advance payments may subject the County to the risk of loss in the event that the goods or services are not subsequently received,” the audit stated.
  • Incentives and sponsorships were paid without proper written agreements. “Lack of written agreement terms creates legal uncertainty, may increase the County’s financial risk, and may leave the County with limited recourse for non-performance or cancellation of incentivized or sponsored events,” according to auditors.
  • No guidelines could be found which determined who received’ incentives and sponsorship and often such arrangements did not obtain the necessary approval by the County Commission.
  • The Tourist Development Council (TDC), a group of tourism executives, city officials and others who oversee the convention bureau, were not given proper financial information by Grossman’s staff. “The last report that auditors could find “was dated April 2015. Upon review, we noted the report did not contain sufficient and relevant information for the TDC to make a determination as to whether (tax) revenues were expended for authorized uses as required” by Florida law, auditors wrote.
  • Support services for tourism, such as housing transportation, meals and “event experiences” were purchased without following county rules. The tourism agency did obtain competing bids, but violated rules which required it to buy services through the county’s purchasing division.  “Failure to follow the Purchasing Division’s policies and procedures may preclude fair and equitable opportunities for all qualified vendors to respond to County procurement needs, and may also result in hiring vendors that are not in compliance with County requirements, such as the Living Wage…,” the audit stated.

The audit does not address the non-financial problems that plagued the tourism bureau under Grossman in her later years, according to tourism industry sources.

 

 

 

Stacy Ritter

 

Reportedly the agency had no program in place to measure the effectiveness of various promotions.  The tourism bureau supposedly had almost no presence on social media and had an outdated website, which Ritter has worked to fix.

The audit is scheduled to be discussed by the County Commission next week.



16 Responses to “Auditor Blasts Fast-And-Loose Spending By Tourism Bureau Under Nicki Grossman”

  1. disgruntled says:

    can u even imagine the combined pensions of the 2 grossmans wow its great to be a civil , what is that word, servant…. lol

  2. Sam The Sham says:

    Its a good thing we audit Nicki Grossman, a year after the horse is out of the barn. Stacey Ritter has zero sales, marketing and tourism experience so of course she was the perfect person for the job. Lets wait 10 or 20 years until she retires to audit her as well.

  3. Talks like a politician says:

    Perhaps there should be an annual audit while Ritter is in charge. She has had various personal problems with finance. Sometimes that spills over into the workplace. Plus, she is a career politician who has spent other people’s money for years.

  4. Motel Owner says:

    I know both of them. I don’t view Nicki as corrupt. At the end, she was just worn out and careless at the end.Stacy brought a new look and fresh air into the tourism effort. Nicki should have retired 10 years ago.

  5. tell the truth says:

    Evan Lukic is the best resource the tax payers have. Too bad after all these years he was never allowed to peek at the books under grossman, let alone scrutinize them.
    and yet there were still millions of dollars in the kitty to pay the hockey team $80+/- million stipend last year.
    When the voters approve the second $25k property tax break in Nov 2018, they will be forced to do belt tightening.

  6. Charles King says:

    When you are voting in the state referendum next year and pondering whether to give yourself an extra homestead property tax break or put more money in the hands of these corrupt incompetents of Club Gov, think of local government legend Nicki Grossman and her probably worse replacement Stacy Ritter and the answer to your quandary will become apparent.

  7. Grossjob says:

    Grossman did an awfull job and certainly was unqualified for the position in the first place. She ran off business and payed out all of her friends without seeing results. The county got screwed on the Panther arena and Grossman showed no leadership in defending the industry. Thank god she is gone.

  8. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @5 – Evan Lukic, Broward’s County Auditor, consistently does excellent work and has earned the respect of very nearly everyone in Broward County. The one person in Broward County who really hates Evan Lukic with a passion is… yep, you guessed it… Stacy Ritter:

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-broward-auditor-bashed-20150914-story.html

  9. Chaz Stevens says:

    @3

    Bob Norman is this you?

    Ritter will kick ass and take names.

  10. Hallandale Beach Blog says:

    Great post, Buddy! So much detail leaves me and others in #Broward wondering what’s the next shoe to drop involving incompetency and corruption. And wanting answers for why we didn’t know some or all of this long before.

    Bombshell! Auditor’s report re Greater #FTL #CVB financial and business operations leaves #Broward civic activists, bloggers and Electeds dumbstruck. http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2017/05/bombshell-its-actually-worse-than-i.html

  11. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    #6. Wow “quandary,apparent” .I glad to see that fancy Paris France college you graduated from is being used to good use. How are ya Charlie?. Good observation I must say. Hold on, relax, .If Grossman did anything shady even though she is history if you can sustain that she did shady things w/ this county money she can still be brought up on charges. Doesn’t matter how old she is. Doesn’t matter how many years she held that title as director. Sure its easy being the big shot w/ other people’s money(county bed tax etc.. Show me the money as they say. If I can connect the dots i’ll put the red head in jail….

  12. A Few Thoughts says:

    Allow me a different perspective, the bonus’s you write about amount to $6350 per sales person per year assuming everyone got the same. These are hardly news worthy commissions for sales people, anywhere. Car Salesman do better, in a month. The lack of documentation is troubling and makes me ask who did/does Grossman/Ritter report to? If it’s some Assistant County Administrator then ask the next question Buddy: Who’s was/is holding the CVB accountable? Based on Ritter’s social media posts, which you somewhat tout as a good thing, she’s been all over the world in the name of Broward County. Her job? Yes, I think so, but what about the documentation? You don’t hold people accountable with an audit after they leave Buddy. You hold them accountable from day 1, who’s responsible for the CVB, who’s holding the agency accountable? Grossman/Ritter are not autonomous, someone is responsible for them. Write that story instead of just rehashing/reposting Evan Lukic’s work.

  13. Running scared says:

    Ritter will kick ass and take names…

    I hope they audit every year….

  14. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @12 – Stacy Ritter directly reports to County Administrator Bertha Henry, as clearly shown by the Broward County Organizational Chart:

    http://www.broward.org/Administrator/Documents/OrgChart.pdf

    As to who IS holding Grossman/Ritter accountable… that would be Evan Lukic.

  15. More SBBC wasting money says:

    Hey Buddy, more SBBC wasting money.
    Laborers paid $300 per hour, materials marked up 150%. Building permits, what for?
    http://www.broward.k12.fl.us/auditdept/auditcommittee/2016-17/2017-0511/ac-2017-0511-asphalt-and-paving-final-report.pdf

  16. A Few Thoughts says:

    @14 – the org chart does clearly show the County Administrator is responsible for the CVB and that was my point. The County Auditor is a true professional, but we are talking about day to day operations, not auditing someone’s performance after the fact. The accountability rest with the Administrator, not with Evan Lukic. Grossman was her responsibility as is Ritter, let’s see what changes.

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