By Robert Haugh
The Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce gets paid a lot of money to manage the Convention Center and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. But no one can say what they do for the money — or who gave them a raise.
Chamber board member Ravinder Lal has criticized us on this site for writing negative things about the Chamber. So we asked him to write an opinion piece explaining what the Chamber does to earn a management fee. Unfortunately, Lal has not taken the opportunity to explain why tax dollars should go to the Chamber.
But, neither has city staff. Here’s what the staff report says for the item that will be heard tonight.
“… the contract with the Chamber does not explicitly provide for a management fee or any parameters for the amount or purpose. In addition, for decades, staff has been paying a management fee without a required contract that specifies the payment terms and structure for which to issue public funds.”
So no one can justify to Mission City taxpayers the “amount or purpose” for the Chamber’s management fee. Wow.
That’s when we learned that the Chamber’s management fee was mysteriously increased without the city council approving it. Since that meeting, city staff has discovered the following fee increases — none of them officially approved by the city council.
This raises lots of questions:
- How was this allowed to happen?
- Who made it happen?
- Was this even legal?
- Is this considered a gift of public funds?
- Will the Chamber have to pay any of it back to the City?
Unfortunately, none of these are addressed in the the city staff report. That’s really disappointing.
Instead, city staff recommends that the City Council gives the green light for City Manager Deanna Santana to create a “legitimate agreement” if the council wants to continue paying a management fee. Huh?
Shouldn’t someone make the case that it’s needed first? Or at least find out if there’s been some past wrongdoing before anyone gets the greenlight?
We hope the members of the City Council who care about transparency, good government, and fiscal responsibility will do so. Until all the questions are answered satisfactorily, the Chamber management fee should get a red light, not a green one.