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Penticton hotel tax feud still simmering

The city and the Penticton Hospitality Association are still trying to work out their differences, but neither side is willing to talk about how their discussions are going.

On Monday, Mayor Garry Litke and PHA president Rob Appelman had their second private meeting to discuss the dispute over control of funds generated by the two per cent hotel room tax — about $400,000 annually, intended for tourism marketing.

Litke would only say the latest meeting went well, though whether there would be further meetings “remains to be seen.”

“We are continuing to work towards a resolution,” said Litke. “We’re meeting and we’re talking, so that’s good.”

Appelman is similarly reticent about progress at the meetings. He calls them a work in progress, with no agreement yet, though he expects to resume discussions within a few days.

Litke wouldn’t comment on whether any city councillors or staff other than himself is participating in the meetings with Appelman.

“We are trying to keep these meetings and their content under wraps until we actually arrive at something,” said Litke.

After his first meeting with Appelman in early December, Litke said both men had agreed not to talk about their discussions, and declined to comment on whether the legal actions had been put on hold.

Appelman did say that while the discussions are ongoing, the PHA is still making plans for the HRT funds and continuing to develop marketing strategies for 2014.

Members of city staff and council have been meeting with PHA representatives over the past year, including asking PHA representatives to present to council last May on their activities and a mediation session in September with then-deputy mayor Wes Hopkin.

On Oct. 31, Litke announced the city’s plans to break a five-year contract granting the PHA control of the HRT funds, which was signed in July 2012. In his announcement, Litke said the PHA had accumulated funds, was not living up to the terms of the contract and the city had decided to award the funds to Tourism Penticton instead.

The PHA immediately announced they would be taking legal action and retained the services of Alfred Kempf, a litigation and supreme court lawyer with Pushor Mitchell LLP to act on their behalf. But Kempf and the city’s legal representative only exchanged their first volley of letters in November before Litke reached out to Appelman and met with him face-to-face for the first time.

 

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