Burbank approves new regulations for tourism board

The Burbank City Council finalized recommendations it made to city staff almost a year ago designed to prevent the Burbank Hospitality Assn. from breaking any laws or again violating the Brown Act.

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office found the association approved a $50,000 donation in support of a ballot measure though the issue was not on the meeting’s agenda, a violation of the act.

Council members unanimously voted on Tuesday to approve its amended agreement with the association, better known as Visit Burbank, which shortens the contract between the agencies from 10 years to three years.

The agreement also requires that the director of the city’s Community Development Department be removed as a voting member of the association, and the organization must maintain an office in Burbank that is not a city facility to conduct its meetings.

It also prohibits using funds it collects for political campaigns, requires the association hire its own legal representation and administrative staff and reduces the city’s assessment fees for staffing services to 12.75%, said Mary Hamzoian, the economic development manager for the city.

The City Council had directed city staff to bring back an amended agreement that incorporates these changes during aDec. 20 meeting. Since then, the association has retained legal counsel, had Brown Act training for board members and staff, hired two administrative staff members, cut its budget by $50,000 and has leased office space at the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, Hamzoian said.

Visit Burbank is responsible for promoting tourism in the city. The association deals with funds generated by the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District, which collects a 1% assessment from hotels for every hotel stay in the city. The money is then used to promote the city and attract tourists.

However, during a meeting on Sept. 14, 2016, the Burbank Hospitality Assn. donated $50,000 to the Committee for Yes on Measure B, a group advocating for the passage of a ballot measure that would allow the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority to build a 14-gate replacement terminal at Hollywood Burbank Airport. The measure passed.

The donation was made after Sunder Ramani, a former state Assembly candidate and Measure B committee member, asked the association to make the contribution during that meeting, though it was not an item on the agenda.

Several Burbank residents filed complaints with the state Fair Political Practices Commission in December 2016 and the Los Angeles district attorney’s office in January, alleging Visit Burbank had violated the Brown Act and that the donation was a misuse of public funds.

In June, the district attorney’s office agreed with residents that the association had violated the Brown Act. However, the FPPC and district attorney’s office are still investigating whether the association misused the funds.

In a letter dated Aug. 23, Michael Colantuono, the association’s legal counsel, said the organization has been cooperating with the investigations by the FPPC and district attorney’s office regarding the donation.

anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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