Switzer to hand over financials

BLYTHEWOOD – Town Council again addressed the growing issue of the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center financials at the May 26 Town Council meeting. And, again, Council asked Mike Switzer, Executive Director of both the Chamber and Visitor Center, to produce the complete financial records for both organizations. The Town and The Voice have requested the financials several times over the past month without results.

Switzer said the Chamber’s treasurer, Dennis Drozbak, would submit the information to the Town on or before June 12. At the meeting, Switzer explained again why the financials had not been presented to Council.

“We’ve been creating all these sub-categories with much more magnification. We don’t have these categories filled in so we have to go back and reclassify every single thing,” Switzer said.

“We need those before we can approve the numbers for the next budget year,” Mayor J. Michael Ross said.

“I thought you only wanted the budget,” Switzer said. “We haven’t finished the budget.”

“We want the financials, everything. Anything that’s been written in the paper or questioned,” Ross said. “We want you to present this Council with something we can look at and we are either going to say the paper wasn’t right or, if it is right, then we’ve got a problem.”

While former Town Councilman Tom Utroska has on several occasions called for an audit of the Chamber’s funds, the Council as a whole has never asked for an audit and, until recently, rarely questioned how the Chamber spent money it receives from the general fund or how the Visitor Center spends the money Council awards it from the accommodation tax funds.  The Town has given Switzer more than a month to work on the Chamber and Visitor Center financials in order for them to be reviewed by Council.

Switzer insisted, however, that he has been open about the Chamber’s finances with the Town.

“We actually give monthly P & L statements to the town’s representative on the Chamber board,” Switzer said.

“We’re not just talking about profit and loss,” Ross said. “We’re talking about financials that we can look at. More detail on salaries and everything. Let us look at everything so we can make a determination.”

Ross notified The Voice last weekend that he, Councilman Brian Franklin and the Town’s representative on the Chamber board, Ed Parler, met with Drozbak on Wednesday, June 6 to discuss the Chamber and Visitor Center financials.

“Mr. Drozbak brought no documents with him. We told him we want to look at all the Chamber and Visitor Center financials,” Ross said.

Ross, town attorney Jim Meggs, another  Councilman and Town Administrator Brian Cook were to meet on Wednesday, June 13 with Switzer and Drozbak, who agreed to hand over the requested documents. That meeting was scheduled shortly after The Voice went to press.

The Chamber has never responded with financial documentation requested by The Voice through a S.C. Freedom of Information request submitted on April 4. Detrimental to that request, the S.C. Supreme Court issued a ruling on May 23, in a case brought against the Hilton Head Chamber of Commerce that strips the media and citizens of their ability to use the S.C. Freedom of Information Act to find out how Chambers of Commerce in the state spend taxpayer money awarded them by governments. With the ruling, the government that awards the money is now the only entity that has recourse to find out how a chamber spends that money.