October 19, 2021 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

All three commissioners were present. The following is a summary of the meeting.

From left to right: Commissioners Gohagan, Hasty, and Williams

There was a pretty good crowd present and I figured that was going be for the TCLA item on the agenda.

Presiding Commissioner Hasty started off by stating that the Commission was going to start allocating time in the agenda for public comment from citizens. Citizens would sign their name and get 3 minutes to address the Commission on any item on the agenda. He also mentioned that citizens could use that time to request that items be added to future agendas.

John Beckett asked if there could also be a public comment section after the agenda. Commissioner Hasty said they would also probably add a public comment section at the end. This was welcome news since we have been asking for a public comment portion of the agenda for some time now.

This appears to be an effort to create a more formalized portion of the meeting where the public can express themselves instead of the informal “raise your hand and blurt something out” method that was used previously. The challenge to this is that if you have public comment before the agenda starts, no one knows specifically what is going to be discussed. If you have it at the end of the agenda, the Commission has already voted and then it’s too late. I’d suggest having public comment immediately before any vote by the Commission. This would allow the commissioners to hear from the community members and consider their input before voting.

For example, in this agenda, one of the agenda items was listed as “TCLA”. That’s pretty vague and could mean a lot of different things. Overall, I think it’s an improvement and a step in the right direction. I’d like to think that the Commission is responding to things I’ve complained about on this blog and the things I’m sure voters have complained to them about in person. Who knows? In the end, it will only help the Commission by creating more structured community feedback and hopefully reduce some of the frustration currently felt by the people who take the time to attend Commission meetings.

It would probably also be easier if the Commission would table important votes after discussing them. This would give them at least a few days to think about things and hear from their constituents before they decided how they were going to vote. I don’t understand why there is always a rush to vote on agenda items right away.

The first agenda item was Road Vacation orders. These had been voted on at the previous meeting. The orders were approved unanimously and signed by the commissioners.

The second agenda item was for TCLA (Tri County Lodging Association). The first speaker was Lagina Fitzpatrick, the Executive Director of the TCLA. She explained that the agenda item was for TCLA to be designated by the Commission as the DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) for Camden County. This designation allows the TCLA to receive the Missouri state funds allocated by the Missouri Department of Tourism for Camden County. It sounded like the total amount of available marketing funds between Morgan, Miller, and Camden counties would be around $225,000 to $250,000. They won’t know for sure until Missouri decides how much will be distributed. The designation of a DMO is for a five year period.

http://www.tri-countylodging.com/index.html

TCLA has already been designated by Miller County. She said TCLA uses a single marketing firm and they do not select their marketing company through a bidding process. When asked by Commissioner Gohagan if Camden County could designate a different DMO, she stated that the process required to certify a new entity to be eligible as a DMO can take up to 2 years.

https://industry.visitmo.com/programs/dmo-certification

Commissioner Hasty stated he has had problems with the TCLA in the past. According to Hasty, he previously wrote a scathing letter regarding the accounting problems of TCLA. He feels that the new management of TCLA has made extraordinary efforts to comply with statutes. He also mentioned that the statutes are currently not very clear.

Commissioner Gohagan asked if the Conventions and Visitor Bureau (CVB) could be designated as the DMO for Camden County? He did not want to designate TCLA as the DMO for Camden County.

https://www.funlake.com/get-to-know-us/cvb-staff

Apparently, TCLA is currently involved in one or more lawsuits. One brought by plaintiffs in Miller County and another from plaintiffs in Camden County. I’m not sure if this is a single lawsuit or several separate lawsuits.

Commissioner Williams stated that the TCLA has come a long way. He said the commissioners need to pick a DMO or Camden County won’t receive the money from the state. He clarified that when the Commission previously stated they didn’t have authority over the TCLA, it was regarding how the TCLA spends the money allocated to them. The funding is “pass through” money and the Commission can’t tell TCLA how to spend the money.

The Commission only has three weeks to designate a DMO. Commissioner Gohagan wanted to know why this item had been brought before them on such short notice. Charles McElyea, Legal Advisor to the Commission, said he had been made aware of this issue only three weeks before.

Commissioner Hasty stated that the Business District is the final arbiter of how the money gets spent.

Commissioner Williams made a motion to designate TCLA as the DMO for Camden County. Commissioner Gohagan made a motion to deny the designation. Commissioner Hasty said there was already a motion on the floor. When Commissioner Gohagan refused to second Williams’ motion, there was a pause and then Commissioner Hasty seconded it. The designation passed 2-1 with Commissioner Gohagan voting against it. TCLA will now be Camden County’s DMO for 5 years.

The third agenda item was for Parking Lot Lights. The County Collector requested that the Commission approve the installation of additional lighting in the employee parking lots. During tax seasons, many of the employees work late into the night and the current lighting isn’t sufficient for them to get safely to their cars. The Maintenance Department told her it would be too expensive but they solicited a quote from Laclede Electric who said they could install them for between $1,500 and $2,000. This was approved unanimously by the Commission. The County Treasurer also asked for additional lighting outside the back door of the courthouse.

These agenda items were followed by another Public Comment session. I’m going to summarize the comments, but there was some objection to the fact that public comment was being heard after the Commission had already voted. I’ll refer back to what I wrote above that public comments would be more useful if they were heard immediately before the Commission votes on something.

Obviously, there is a lot of distrust of the TCLA in the community. People had issues with the way it handled its finances and its voting process. Defenders of the TCLA stated the organization has improved its procedures and is not doing business the way it was done in the past. The TCLA invited the commissioners to attend their meetings to observe. Commissioner Hasty stated he expects that the statutes that govern TCLA will be clearer once the judge(s) make rulings on the lawsuit(s).

It was argued that the marketing done by TCLA is not effective and the recent boom in the tourism economy had nothing to do with TCLA’s efforts. It had more to do with keeping the area operating while other tourism destinations were shut down during the pandemic and the free publicity the lake received from national news coverage.

One of the members of the TCLA Board stated that while there was no doubt that there were past problems with TCLA elections, he hadn’t seen any malfeasance. Lodging owners are eligible to vote for the TCLA Board of Directors.

I looked at this on the TCLA website:

http://www.tri-countylodging.com/elections.html

I can see where the voting might get a little “complicated” since property managers can proxy vote for their lodging owners. Using TCLA’s own example, a property manager who managed 100 properties could get proxy permission from their lodging owners and cast 100 votes in the Small category of their business district.

Here is the makeup of the current TCLA Board:

http://www.tri-countylodging.com/board.html

Toward the end of the Public Comment portion, one of the audience members complained that the other commissioners were interrupting Commissioner Gohagan while he was trying to speak. Commissioner Williams wanted an example of when this had ever happened. Commissioner Gohagan started to give an example and Commissioner Hasty tried to interrupt him. Commissioner Gohagan got louder and louder until Commissioner Hasty stopped trying to talk over him. I assumed that Commissioner Hasty was trying to be helpful to Commissioner Williams by giving him an example. Commissioner Williams stated that it would be better if everyone was more civil with each other.

County Auditor Laughlin then suggested that one way to incorporate public comment would be to have a First Read and a Second Read of matters during Commission sessions.

And that was that.

3 thoughts on “October 19, 2021 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.

  1. Thanks for putting out your efforts & the fine explanations of what has transpired in our most influential of local politics. You, Sir, are a fine asset to our community.

    Like

  2. Hello fellow blogger and Camden County dweller! Thank you for posting this! Being new to the issues concerning our county, found your post very informative!
    I’d love to see more area residents follow your blog so that we’d have an outside FB area to discuss affairs and put our heads together.
    Keep up the good work! I look forward to reading more!

    Like

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