Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Welcome! You sure you want this job?

Tomorrow's editorial tonight:

A hearty welcome to Tom Murray, named Monday the new chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. Murray comes to Charlotte after three decades of hospitality work, mostly in hotels but most recently running a luxury cruise business. He’s going to need all that experience.

Here’s what Murray will face in his new job: A wacky organizational chart in which one of his subordinates is former CEO Tim Newman, now deposed but still with a great deal of influence in the organization and city. Murray also will work for a board that thoroughly bungled its handling of that deposed CEO, earning the ire and meddling of Mayor Anthony Foxx and Charlotte’s City Council, not to mention the public’s distrust.

And oh yes – in nine months, Murray also will be navigating the most important hospitality event in Charlotte’s history, the Democratic National Convention. We wouldn’t blame him if he decided instead to take the next cruise to the Galapagos.

Murray surely knows what he’s getting into, but just in case, a recap. Newman was demoted for a series of misdeeds and missteps, including lavishing thousands of dollars of dinners and tickets on local business leaders and public officials who weren’t clients; funneling bonus money from a client to an employee in a way that got around the organization’s ethics policy; and wildly overestimating attendance figures for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The board did its best to keep Newman atop the CRVA, at first promising reform and pretending to mean it by spending $25,000 on a consultant’s report. But that resulted in a few pages of laughably non-specific recommendations. Only when the mayor and council held a lit match to $10 million in CRVA money did the board stir in earnest.

But instead of firing Newman and starting over with a new culture, the board has saddled the CRVA with two quarter-million-dollar salaries – Newman at $240,000 and Murray at $275,000 – along with an awkward boss-subordinate dynamic.

Our hope is that another reality emerges. Murray comes to Charlotte with significant management and organizational experience. Newman, who wasn’t able to handle the challenges of running the CRVA, will oversee sales and marketing – a position that plays to his strength as an advocate for Charlotte. It’s a match, albeit an expensive one, that could serve the city well as the DNC revs up.

We’re encouraged that the CRVA has adopted policy changes regarding bonuses and perks, and the board has added new members such as Russ Sizemore, who helped lead United Way of Central Carolinas out of a public relations disaster over executive pay in 2008. Murray may lead the CRVA the rest of the way to credibility.

But to do so, he’ll have to remember that while the CRVA operates in the Wild West of hospitality, where perks and winks seem to be a part of life, the organization gets its money from the public and therefore must abide by standards of conduct and transparency. It’s something the board and Newman didn’t seem to get, and that created the mess we welcome Murray to repair.


razorsedge said...

I would comment, but in Charlotte, land of crony politics, it would do no good.

Reggie Mantle said...

So Tim Newman is a vulture for tirelessly promoting tourism, private business and local jobs...

...but Jennifer Roberts is the innocent victim despite coddling Harry Jones and pushing a massive tax increase through inflated revals during an economic recession?