PHA broke, ask city to top up marketing coffer

Marketing of Penticton as a tourist destination is grinding to a halt while waiting for judgement from B.C. Supreme Court.

As the wait for a judgment from B.C. Supreme Court on the dispute over the additional hotel two per cent tax drags on, the marketing of Penticton as a tourist destination is grinding to a halt.

“The judgment still hasn’t come through, we are now in week 11,” said Tim Hodgkinson, director of operations for the Penticton Hospitality Association. But the PHA said the city is failing to honour an offer made to help the organization continue tourism marketing while the judge was making his decision.

“Due to the current legal limbo surrounding the two per cent room tax and pending the Supreme Court of B.C. judgment of our dispute the city and their legal representatives (Boyle & Co.) expressed a desire, on a number of occasions, to meet the PHA’s marketing commitments to ensure the continued implementation of substantive marketing operations, for the greater good of the community,” said Hodgkinson in a release.

Hodgkinson said the city is backing away from the offer now that the PHA has asked for help.

Up until now, the PHA has continued their marketing efforts, by drawing on funds accumulated prior to the city’s termination of their contract in October 2013. But a lack of funds will force them to cease operations if the city refuses to follow through on the offer.

“We want them to honour that, because the time has come, for the benefit of the community. And they are doing the usual, shifting the goalposts,” he said.

The PHA has requested the Penticton release funds from the two per cent hotel room tax payments the city has collected since last October to help pay for the organization’s ongoing advertising, which include online and print campaigns as well as supporting marketing by community groups and festivals.

Last year, the PHA gave Challenge Penticton a $35,000 cheque to help with their marketing efforts.

For his part, Mayor Garry Litke said the city has no knowledge of the state of the PHA finances.

“I haven’t seen any evidence. We really don’t even know how much money they have. They haven’t given any of their financial accounting, that has been the issue since day one,” said Litke.

“We believe they are still in possession of a great deal of money.”

Litke also admits he was aware of the offer, but did not know the details.

As far as he is concerned, there will be no action before the Supreme Court issues its decision.

“We are waiting for the court to decide. It is just normal practice that when there is a case before the courts that is being litigated, people don’t normally act in a way that contradicts what is happening in the courts,” said Litke.

Hodgkinson said the PHA has not been asked for an accounting of their current financial situation.

After placing their request, he said, the city responded with a request for a breakdown of the marketing projects the funds would be used for.

When that was provided, the city responded with another request for historical financial data.

“It is the same old thing. ‘What about the annual report from 2013?,’ which is part of the legal talks,” said Hodgkinson.

He claims the city received monthly financial reports until the contract was terminated last October, as well a financial audit for 2012.

“They are bringing all this crap back in and it is not relevant to what they committed to.”

Hodgkinson calls the city’s actions “a series of misleading and empty gestures” that will result in completely halting the community’s external marketing operations.