Officials settle on funds distribution
The judge will keep watch over the remaining $53,201.
WARREN -- Trumbull County commissioners and the county's closed visitors bureau settled Friday on distributing about $168,000, although arguing among representatives of both continued into a courthouse hallway afterward.
The parties met for about 90 minutes under the auspices of a visiting judge, Thomas P. Curran. He also spoke in chambers with Commissioners Daniel Polivka and James Tsagaris; and five of the Trumbull Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau board members.
In the end it was ordered that lodging tax proceeds collected during a dispute between the parties would be distributed next week to the bureau in this way:
U$113,746 for promoting about a dozen events and paying for a state audit to close the bureau's books.
UThe bureau had $8,110 in its checking account, which the judge subtracted from the $113,746.
UThat totals $105,636 to which the judge added an additional $1,000 so the closed bureau's bank account would not be empty.
UJudge Curran will keep jurisdiction over $53,201 and will have authority to say who gets that -- and whether it can be used for more events, or paying the bureau's final bills and obligations.
Tensions ran high
The judge started the proceeding on a positive note, but tension persisted between the parties.
"I am motivated by a desire to improve Trumbull County, and today's a good example of summertime," Judge Curran said. "In my opinion it would be a mistake to let this litigation go through the summer."
After much dickering over dollars, Polivka asked the court: "In the spirit of cooperation, can we just go through those [numbers] and have a decision today, so we can move on?"
The commissioner chairman also noted several attempts had been made to settle the matter in the past, and said it's "ridiculous that we're here."
Settlement of the $168,000 issue between commissioners and the closed, 24-year-old Trumbull County Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau has been in the works for several months.
The visitors bureau board had filed a lawsuit regarding past funds it claimed were due from the 4 percent lodging tax the county collects.
There was more than a year's worth of friction between commissioners and the former Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau over board membership appointments and investment of $200,000 county lodging tax money.
Commissioners wanted to be in charge of board appointments, and opposed investing the money that was to go toward tourism promotions. So, the contract with the old board was severed in 2004.
The bureau had since tapped that $200,000 reserve to keep operating.
New board established
In May commissioners established a new entity, called the Trumbull County Tourism Board, to receive 2 percent of the county's lodging tax. The other 2 percent goes to the Western Reserve Port Authority to run the airport in Vienna.
Dominic Baragona, a member of the closed bureau's board, told Jason Earnhart, assistant prosecutor representing the commissioners, that he still wanted to push for lodging tax funds that the commissioners gave to the port authority in 2004. The port authority received all 4 percent for some of last year.
Earnhart said Baragona could take that issue up with the port authority.
Baragona and Polivka continued debating in the hallway until Earnhart intervened.
At the insistence of county commissioners, the Trumbull County Metro Parks system will get $20,000 as part of the settlement.