Local CVB Officials Hold Membership Meeting To Discuss Possible Fee Increase & Ongoing Issues Involved In Hiring Former California Professional As Exec Director
Saugatuck-Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) board officials were scheduled to hold a meeting with its members Wednesday night to hear an update on the issue of whether or not to seek a membership vote to increase the amount the lodging owners are required to pay to support marketing efforts and also to provide an update on its executive director search.
A decision by the CVB Board on whether to seek that increase from the current 2% to 5% (based on money collected by the respective lodging establishments from its paying guests which funds the CVB) is expected in the near future.
David Lorenz, vice president-Travel Michigan of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., attended the Wednesday meeting and spoke to those attending on the possible increase with attending CVB members. The organization’s meeting was not open to the public.
CVB members attending also were reportedly told the board’s executive director search was still ongoing and a background review of the man already offered the position in a Letter of Intent - Ken Fischang, formerly president/CEO of the Sonoma Tourism Bureau in Santa Rosa, California - was continuing.
Local CVB officials - including Chair Andrew Milauckas - conceded they were caught unaware after learning from a California media report that Fischang had been placed on administrative leave by the Sonoma Tourism Bureau after an investigation/audit had reportedly turned up alleged financial irregularities by himself and other staff members only a day before he received the Letter of Intent to offer him the executive director’s position locally.
Milauckas Wednesday told The Local Observer the board is still awaiting information from its attorney into that matter before a final decision on Fischang’s hiring.
“We’re doing our due diligence,” said Milauckas, saying the board was trying to learn more on whether there was any truth to the California media reports regarding Fischang before making any final hiring decision.
Cheryl Ronk, president of the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) told The Local Observer Wednesday that neither she nor any MSAE representatives had uncovered any information or documentation showing Fischang had done anything wrong or had been placed on administrative leave as reported by the media in California.
“We do a thorough background check…and no, I have no knowledge of any problem like that involving Ken,” said Ronk.
She noted she had given the local CVB officials a positive, verbal report on Fischang based on her/MSAE’s review and background checks before Fischang was sent his Letter of Intent to be hired by the local CVB.
“As part of their due diligence, they (local CVB officials) are having their attorney look for any documents or information about what has been reported regarding Ken Fischang…but I have no additional information and have not received any documents yet confirming that information,” said Ronk.
She praised the work of the local CVB search committee in doing the proper research and review of not only Fischang, but all the candidates vying for the local CVB position.
CVB Chair Milauckas this week sent local CVB members the following message, in part, regarding the executive director search efforts:
“As you probably know, the CVB recently announced that it has made a conditional offer of employment to Ken Fischang, someone we believe is a top industry professional,to be our Executive Director. That announcement followed a lengthy interview process that included 9 highly qualified candidates.
After initial interviews with the top 8 individuals, the search committee identified the top three candidates. References for all three were checked.
In early May, the search firm MSAE (Michigan Society of Association Executives) lead by Cheryl Ronk talked to Ken’s references, and all were positive. Immediately after, a background check was ordered.
The Search Committee members and MSAE also reviewed information available online through Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. That information suggested Ken Fischang is a top industry professional recognized across the country for his work and ethics.
Dave Lorenz, VP of Travel Michigan, highly recommends hiring Fischang, based on his knowledge of Fischang’s work in the Kalamazoo area and Sonoma County.
On May 9th the Search Committee recommended to the Board and decided to make Mr. Fischang a conditional offer. On May 11th an offer letter with conditions was presented to Ken and he accepted the conditional offer.
On May 15th the CVB Board announced Mr. Fischang’s appointment, which was still conditioned on the Board’s completion of its due diligence.
On May 16th we learned of a newspaper article in California that suggested Ken had been placed on administrative leave by his employer. No other specific information was provided in that article.
As a result, the CVB Board and Search committee met and agreed to continue with its due diligence before reaching a decision on Ken’s approval.
We are waiting for more information that may be available and important in understanding the accuracy of the newspaper article.
The Board has not yet given final approval to hire Mr. Fischang. We on the Board as well as the Search Committee are committed to hiring the best person possible to fill the position of our Executive Director.
We will continue to update you as we have more information or have made a decision.
If you have any questions, you can contact myself or any of the Board Members via the CVB office.
Chair of the Board of Directors”
Ronk told The Local Observer Wednesday she was attending the CVB meeting and planned on sharing with its members the process taken to vet Fischang for the local executive director position.
Ronk said she wanted the Saugatuck-Douglas community to know that she felt the local CVB officials worked hard o ensure they were moving in a positive, effective way as they move forward.
“There really was a commitment by them to be positive and work as a team to move the organization in a positive direction,” said Ronk.
She also said she had “no problem” with the local CVB offering Fischang the job at the time it did, even though she/MSAE had not fully completed its review of his background.
“All the information we had at that time pointed to the fact that Ken was a very good, qualified candidate,” noted Ronk.