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Cost of Black Mayors conference jumps to $150,000

The cost of hosting a conference for a group of US mayors in Hamilton is set to balloon, according to documents obtained by The Royal Gazette.

For the National Conference of Black Mayors is now charging the Corporation of Hamilton a minimum $150,000 to host the event, rather than an initially agreed fee of $100,000.

And if the draft staging agreement is signed by City Hall, Hamilton ratepayers will also have to foot the bill for a slew of other costly obligations, including a reception for 600 guests, transportation around the Island for convention attendees, and some meals.

The Royal Gazette understands that an initial instalment of $50,000 was paid out to the Atlanta-based organisation this week, even though terms of the contract have yet to be finalised.

The undated staging agreement reads: “The Host City hereby agrees that it will generate through the activities of the Host Committee or otherwise, a minimum contribution of One Hundred and Fifty-Thousand Dollars (150,000) to CBM due and payable not later than January 31, 2014.

“Please note that it is customary for the Host City to pay its financial obligation at the convention preceding the Host City's convention.”

The contract adds that, in addition to that payment, the Corporation “agrees to generate ticket sales to Annual Convention meal functions, conduct convention pre-registrations, promote advertising space in the Annual Convention Souvenir Journal, and facilitate the sale of exhibition/vendor space and to secure corporate sponsorships”.

“All income-generating activities must be conducted independent of NCBM activities and should receive the prior written approval of CBM before being undertaken by the Host City or the Host Committee.

“Further, the Host City agrees to purchase one full-page colour advertisement in the Annual Convention Souvenir Journal for five thousand dollars ($5,000) which may also be paid through in-kind contributions,” according to the terms.

“The Host City agrees to plan and organise an Opening Reception for the members of the CBM and their guests, and said reception shall be planned to accommodate a minimum of 600 persons.

“All costs of the reception shall be borne by the Host City through the securing of sponsors or otherwise. The arrangements for the Opening Reception must be coordinated with the CBM staff.

“The Host City shall be responsible for providing ground transportation to conferees and special guests both to and from Annual Convention events held at locations other than the Convention Hotel.

The draft contract lists a number of other logistical responsibilities that the Corporation must fulfil ahead of the conference, which is set to be held between October 1-5.

The municipality “will identify several hotels capable of accommodating the Annual Convention, from which CBM will select and negotiate a contract” and must also recommend.

It must also help the NCBM select a security firm to provide security at the convention and a limousine company “to provide transportation for its designated distinguished guests and invitees”.

“In addition, the Host City shall be responsible for securing a satisfactory and appropriate venue for the Town Hall Meeting that will be held during the Annual Convention,” the agreement adds. “Moreover, it shall be the responsibility of the Host City to make arrangements for public school youth within the Host City to attend the Plenary Session and to receive visits from member mayors as a part of CBM's educational outreach programs associated with the Annual Convention.

“The Host City shall be responsible for keeping accurate and up-to-date records of all income and disbursements made in connection with and as part of their responsibilities and duties hereunder.

“The cost of meals (ie, actual charge by provider, gratuities and taxes) will be charged to the Host City for each meal ticket function sold. All such books and records shall be conveniently available to CBM.”

The document lists Conference of Black Mayors Inc Executive Director Vanessa Williams and Hamilton Deputy Mayor Donal Smith as signatories.

Ms Williams was sacked by the NCBM last September after failing to provide up-do-date accounting records for the organisation.

But bank records show that she reportedly spent $600,000 of NCBM funds on personal expenses. The organisation is currently $1 million in debt.

The Corporation has to get any payments greater than $50,000 authorised by Government, which temporarily took control of the municipality's purse strings last December amid concerns of gross financial mismanagement.

Asked by this newspaper if Government had approved the initial payment of $50,000, a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman said that Minister Michael Fahy had met with Corporation officials last week.

“At this recent meeting, the Minister advised the Mayor that if the members could satisfy the Ministry that full accountability of all aspects of the upcoming conference were provided, then the allocation of funding which was approved in the Corporation's budget could be used for the event,” the spokesman said.

Pressed on whether or not Sen Fahy had approved the payment, the spokesman said: “Meetings continue to be ongoing between the Ministry and the Corporation of Hamilton to discuss this and other matters of mutual concern.”

Calls and e-mails from The Royal Gazette to Hamilton mayor Graeme Outerbridge were not returned by press time last night.

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Published March 28, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 28, 2014 at 9:19 am)

Cost of Black Mayors conference jumps to $150,000

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