Leaders in the city of Anaheim want to explore if they can halt funding to Visit Anaheim, following allegations that the agency may have diverted over a million dollars in coronavirus pandemic relief funds, according to The OC Register.
- Leaders of Anaheim, California want to explore if they can halt funding to Visit Anaheim, who markets the city for tourism and also is responsible for bookings at the Anaheim Convention Center.
- Reportedly, this comes after allegations from the JL Group after an investigation that the agency may have diverted $1.5 million in coronavirus pandemic relief funds to an Anaheim Chamber of Commerce nonprofit back in 2020.
- During that year, the city had set aside over $6 million to support the agency and to promote tourism recovery, but the investigation suggests that $1.5 million of that was diverted to the nonprofit, but could not determine how it was used.
- In a vote on August 15th, Anaheim council members agreed (6-1) to ask city staff to explore options, also questioning if they can end Visit Anaheim’s contracts with the Chamber of Commerce.
- The meeting was a result of a report commissioned by the city, investigating City Hall dealings, including questions of corruption, past campaign contributions, contracts, city dealings, council decisions and potential Brown Act violations.
- Visit Anaheim gets its funding from a 2% assessment on hotel room rates in the city tourism district, which prompted City Manager James Vanderpool to tell the council, “what Visit Anaheim does with those funds once they are released to them, it’s really between Visit Anaheim and the chamber,” before adding “it’s certainly something we can explore.”
- Anaheim mayor Ashleigh Aitken said she could potentially request that Visit Anaheim give back the $1.5 million.
- The lone vote against the exploration of cutting funds to the agency was from Councilmember Jose Diaz, who was concerned that the actions against the agency could potentially harm the city’s tourism business. Diaz suggested that they should wait for a state audit into public funds sent to the agency before taking any kind of action, saying “We are rushing before having information. I don’t support these people. I just believe it’s gonna hurt the people of Anaheim.”