City returns tourism funds and court costs to PHA

Just over $310,000 delivered to Penticton Hospitality Association Thursday afternoon from City of Penticton.

More than $310,000 has built up in City of Penticton coffers since the current dispute over tourism marketing began last October.

“The city has delivered a cheque for $310,657.10 to our lawyer’s office,” said Tim Hodgkinson, director of operations for the Penticton Hospitality Association.

The city stopped turning the money over to the PHA last October. That’s  when they alleged the hotelier’s association was in breach of their contract with the city to manage tourism funds generated by the two per cent additional hotel room tax.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Betton, however, ruled in favour of the PHA last week, awarding them return of the funds and court costs. The amount released by the city Thursday does not contain the court costs — Hodgkinson said those are still being worked out by the legal firms.

He’s also not sure if the amount includes interest on the funds the city has been holding back.

“We would certainly hope that the interest would be transferred and it is a question that has been raised internally,” said Hodgkinson. “They better supply the interest, because the people of Penticton deserve that bounce. Otherwise, the City of Penticton could be using this as a money-making effort for themselves and that is just not on.”

Hodgkinson said the dialogue about return of the HRT funds began immediately.

“A request was made through legal counsel to pass the money back because ‘We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.’ That was Alfred’s quote,” said Hodgkinson, referring to the PHA legal counsel, Alfred Kempf of Pushor-Mitchell.

The PHA, which had been continuing their marketing efforts with HRT funds still in their possession, were forced to discontinue marketing earlier this spring when that money ran out.