Mayor Jeff Palmore wants the city to revamp its ordinance establishing qualifications for serving on the city tourism commission.
Palmore said the city law does not match the state statute, which dictates how cities must set up commissions.
Palmore wants the ordinance rewritten to match the statute.
The mayor said he feels so strongly about the issue that if the city cannot follow the law, it should not have a tourism commission.
Speaking at the Aug. 19 board meeting, Palmore said the state statute, which covers tourism commissions, says that if a city or county wants to establish a tourism commission that members must live in that city or county.
“We changed that wording in our ordinance to read that members must be residents of the city or ‘any county that the city is in,” Palmore said. “There is nothing like that in the statute. There is no language to that effect.”
The mayor said he wants everything that the city does to follow the law.
“I’m concerned that as we give these tourism dollars, I don’t want someone to come back and audit us and take the funds back 10 years down the road,” Palmore said. “They’ll take it right out of the general fund.”
Concerns have been voiced about whether it would be difficult to get people to serve on the tourism commission if they are required to live in the city, but Palmore said those concerns are unfounded. He said there are Pacific residents who work in the two motels and at Six Flags who would qualify to serve on the tourism commission.
“I can tell you that many people work there, so finding a ready supply of participants for that commission I don’t think is a problem,” he said.
Alderman Mike Bates asked whether the mayor was saying that the tourism commission has to be made up entirely of residents of Pacific.
“I believe that is true,” Palmore replied. “That is my opinion.”
Alderman Walter Arnette, who serves as board liaison to the tourism commission, argued that there are not enough residents who meet the qualifications.
“If you try to do that (require that members live in the city) you couldn’t fill none of the positions,” Arnette said. “Maybe one.”
But Palmore said filling the commission with persons who don’t qualify is not an option.
“The problem I have, Walt, is that’s just not an issue. The issue is following the law first,” Palmore said. “We shouldn’t have a tourism commission if we cannot legally support it.”
The mayor cited Six Flags and local motels as places with employees who live within the city.
“How many people work for Dave Roemer (at Six Flags), hundreds?” Palmore asked. “There are a number of employees who work in the motels.”
Palmore said he believes that resistance to changing the ordinance is related to member Bill McLaren, who is not a city resident, but was appointed to the commission in November 2013.
McLaren, who is currently president of the Pacific Partnership, has been active in events such as Cruise Night and Railroad Day that rely on tourism funds for the past decade. He also operates a visitor venue at the family-owned Haue Valley Farm on North Thornton Road, which opened in July of 2013.
He also lives outside the city limits.
“I think what everybody is concerned about is losing key people who are active and willing participants like Bill McLaren,” Palmore said. “I’ve given this example before. It’s like the operations committee not having Ed Gass on it. Of course, Ed Gass is going to come to it, and Bill McLaren is going to come to the tourism meetings whether he is on that commission or not. We’re going to tap that resource. He is not going to walk away.”
Palmore said he has asked City Attorney Matt Schroeder to create a new ordinance that replicates the state statute and bring it back to the next board meeting.