Report: Tourism executive hid purchase of airline gift cards
Jun. 12, 2018
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former executive of the publicly funded agency responsible for promoting Las Vegas hid the purchase of $90,000 in airline gift cards, according to an audit report.
A report on the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority found that the executive did not disclose the purchase as Southwest Airlines gift cards, but explained in funding requests between 2012 and 2017 that the money was for promotional events, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Monday.
Brig Lawson, the former senior director of business partnerships, also instructed airline employees to send invoices to the authority without mentioning the purchases were for the cards, according to the report. "Discussions with management indicate the gift cards were purchased with LVCVA funds by check and recorded as a promotional expense in accounting records," the report stated.
Lawson had purchased 612 cards with values at $50, $100 and $200 between 2012 and 2017, according to the report.
Nearly $20,000 of the $90,000 in gift cards were used for legitimate business travel, the report said. Auditors were unable to determine if more than $50,000 in cards was used for personal or business travel.
Auditors also learned that authority CEO Rossi Ralenkotter and his wife used $16,207 in cards for dozens of personal trips.
Ralenkotter has apologized for the action and paid the amount back to the agency. Ralenkotter declined to discuss the report Monday.
Lawson resigned as auditors finalized the report. The newspaper could not reach Lawson for comment Monday.
Lawson had told auditors that he gave the cards to Ralenkotter, but he did not know that Ralenkotter had used them for personal travel.
Convention authority spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson declined to discuss his resignation, citing it as a personnel matter.
Bill Noonan, who chairs the convention authority board's audit committee, said he believes Lawson did not inform Ralenkotter of the purchase.
"I believe (Lawson) hid it from the CEO as well," Noonan said. "I don't believe Rossi had a clue at all."
The authority board approved actions aimed at curbing abuse after the preliminary audit findings were released last month. The actions include securing the cards, requiring written approval for use and recording receipts.
The board is expected to take up the audit report at its meeting Tuesday.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com