EDITORIAL: PHA dispute may bite council at election

If you’re not outraged over the City of Penticton’s handling of the dispute over the additional hotel room tax tourism funds, you may not be paying attention.

It’s been nine months since the city tried to terminate the contract giving the Penticton Hospitality Association control of the funds, which are earmarked for external tourism marketing of the area.

In the latest chapter of the saga, a B.C. Supreme Court justice found that the city’s reasons for terminating the contract were, ultimately, baseless.

Meanwhile, the PHA ran out of HRT funds a few months ago, putting an end to the marketing efforts they had managed to continue despite the city holding back new disbursements since last August. Through it all, the city says they have spent a little less than $42,000 on legal expenses. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg — first, add to that the PHA court costs, which Justice Betton awarded as part of his decision. Next, think about the potential millions lost to Penticton’s tourism sector through lack of marketing.

That goes all the way back to 2011, when this roller coaster ride began, after city council chose not to renew the chamber of commerce’s tourism marketing contract.

It was some bad decision-making that got the city here. Ultimately, that falls in council’s lap, but council makes their decisions based on advice from staff. Then there is the legal advice. Justice Betton’s comments make it clear there wasn’t much substance to the city’s allegations, so why didn’t Boyle and Co., the city’s legal firm, advise against pursuing legal action?

Penticton needs to take a good hard look at the decisions and advice that led to this debacle. The biggest loser in this situation has been the taxpayer. It’s time to determine who is accountable for putting us here and take action.

Come the November municipal election, Penticton voters can and will express their opinion on whether putting the city’s tourism marketing in jeopardy was money well spent.


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