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June 18, 2019 6:01 pm

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Ken Fischang Terminated As Saugatuck-Douglas CVB Executive Director After Short Run

The area’s convention and visitors bureau has discharged Ken Fishchang as its executive director after only four months on the job.

“He (Fischang) was not a good fit for us. At this point, we are ready to move forward,” Saugatuck/ Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau Board Chair Andrew Milauckas told The Local Observer Wednesday morning.

“We are a different place than Sonoma (Sonoma County Tourism bureau in Santa Rosa, California is Fischang’s former employer prior to coming to Saugatuck). The size of our budget, our office is different; we thought it would work (with Fischang). We wish him well.”

The Sonoma bureau has 20 staff members and an $8 million budget, compared to Saugatuck’s two-staff office and its $800,000 budget, according to Milauckas.

Sources connected with the CVB who asked to remain anonymous said Fischang just “did not take the reins and do what we needed him to do.

“He turned out be a good delegator and wanted to hire people to do the jobs we needed him to do,” said one local lodging member. “Bottom line he just wasn’t doing the work we needed. I credit the board for acting responsibly and fast so this didn’t linger on.”

Fishchang has reportedly told certain individuals he cannot discuss his termination from the CVB due to a confidentiality clause in his hiring agreement.

The CVB hired Michigan Society of Association Executives (MASE) and its president Cheryl Ronk for a reported $20,000 to find a replacement for the CVB’s former executive director Felicia Fairchild, who did not renew her contract when it expired at the end of 2016.

Fischang was hired against a backdrop of reported questionable and controversial actions while with Sonoma.

Just prior to his appointment, CVB officials learned that Fischang had been placed on administrative leave by the Sonoma County Tourism bureau’s Board of Directors on May 10, 2017 due to an investigation that found reported financial improprieties related to high-priced accounting and other financial issues involving Fischang and members of his staff.

On May 11, Fischang got a Letter of Intent to hire him from Milauckas which Fischang immediately signed and returned with his acceptance.

On May 12, the following day and just two days after being placed on administrative leave, Fischang resigned from his position at Sonoma.

Fischang did not disclose this information to CVB officials either before or immediately accepting the Saugatuck-Douglas CVB position, including the information that he was under investigation/audit by Sonoma County government officials for alleged financial irregularities involving him and his Sonoma staff.

Despite these red flags, the CVB Board unanimously approved the official hiring of Fischang in June.

However, Milauckas indicated that the final decision to hire Fischang was made only after the CVB Board had done a thorough review of the issues that arose around Fischang’s background and found no real reason not to hire him.

Milauckas said the hiring was done only after Ronk/MASE had completed its vetting process and it was made only after the CVB Board had reviewed an audit report and other documents provided by Saugatuck CVB Attorney Nelson Karr of the Vandervoort, Christ & Fisher law firm.

Karr’s findings did not provide information that would cause the local CVB board to rescind its job offer to Fischang, Milauckas told the paper back in June. The CVB vetting process also included speaking with top professionals in the destination marketing operation field in California and Michigan about Fischang.

“He (Fischang) has this track record of coming into a community and turning an organization around,” said Milauckas.

Milauckas indicated that Fischang’s departure will not negatively impact the CVB’s ongoing effort to convince its members to vote to increase the current 2% fee of its lodging rental revenues to 5%.

“I think this (“heads-in-bed fee) is a very important issue for our community. Our economy is tourism; it’s not like Holland (MI) where there is industry and business travel. The increase will dramatically increase our budget and give us the money we need to market the community,” said Milauckas.

State statute, Act 51, requires lodging business owners with 10 rooms or more to contribute to the fee. The fee is voluntary for lodging owners with under 10 rooms.
As far as the search for a new executive director, Milauckas said the CVB Board will discuss the process and procedure in the following two weeks.

Ken Fischang Terminated As Saugatuck-Douglas CVB Executive Director After Short Run

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