After encountering pressure from reporters and members of the public, the Sullivan County Legislature scheduled another round of presentations by the two nonprofit organizations who are vying for the contract to promote tourism in the county. The presentations are scheduled for October 30 at 10 a.m. at the government center in Monticello and will be open to the press and public. The contract comes with some $500,000 in room tax revenue.
It is usually the case that when a significant request for proposals (RFP) is considered by county lawmakers, the press and public are able to see a presentation by the interested organizations, even though financial details are often withheld.
In this case the two organizations are the Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA), which has had the tourism promotion contract for about 10 years, and the Sullivan County Tourism and Promotion (SCTP), which was formed late last year. On October 18, the legislators heard oral presentations from both, but the press and public were barred from attending.
SCVA is well-known in the area and presents a monthly presentation before the legislature on its activities. Little is known about SCTP; an Internet search turns up no website for the organization. Previously, county officials were not releasing any information about the RFPs, such as the names of the individuals connected to them. When it was revealed that the SCTP was pursuing the contract in January, the names of three prominent Democrats were associated with it but, because of the secrecy, it is not clear if those people are listed on the RFP.
In response to a question about why the legislature was considering the matter in secret, county manager David Fanslau said that the applicable law allows it. He wrote “an executive session is permitted to protect the financial history of a particular person or corporation. The RFP incorporates a requirement to detail the financial stability and capacity of the responders to perform the required services.”
Tourism is one of the top two industries in the county, and SCVA has nearly 300 members who pay varying amounts of dues, with the typical membership costing about $100 per year. One of those members appeared at the monthly county meeting on the same day as the oral presentations to support SCVA during the public comment period.
Norman Duttweiler, the producing director of the Forestburgh Playhouse and a member of the SCVA board, said nearly all of the 300 members agree that SCVA is important to the economic success of tourism in the county. He said, “Not renewing the contract of this tourism agency, with a long proven record of success, strikes me as incomprehensible at best and reprehensible at worst.”