What Happens When Organizations Keep Making Bad PR Decisions?

Hundred dollar American bills

When you get an organization receiving public funding and not making themselves accountable to the public, you have something akin to what Shakespeare called “a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury.” That’s what’s been happening in Lincoln, Illinois for the last couple of years.

The Logan County Alliance (LCA) was formed a few years ago with all the best intentions and right reasons. The LCA proposed consolidating several repetitive functions in various agencies and saving money for Joe Taxpayer. Though the LCA is a private organization, it has been receiving public funds for doing work previously done by public departments.

The idea originally was to combine the tourism bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, the countywide economic development agency, and Main Street Lincoln. Main Street Lincoln almost immediately stopped being part of the deal as it formally disbanded. Once LCA was formed, the plan was to have the Logan County board and Lincoln City council become funding partners, but the county board decided not to participate sharing their concerns about the LCA’s accountability over tax dollars making their way into the LCA’s coffers. That only left the chamber of commerce and tourism bureau under their umbrella with a funding partnership from Lincoln City council.

The city council pulled their funds from the County’s development agency and also hired LCA to perform its economic development tasks for $6K per month. However, the LCA ended that part of the deal at the beginning of the year saying they could not adequately complete that work any longer. This has raised questions with many of the council members about how the LCA has been using the tax dollars they’ve received and asking for the LCA to hand over their books for inspection. The other concern comes with how the LCA may be handling more than $160K per year in funds received by the LCA and tourism bureau from hotel/motel taxes.

In response to these and other issues raised with the LCA, they have simply refused to share information, be transparent, or even make any identifiable efforts to “play nice” with others. And it continues to be a problem as LCA inadvertently billed the tourism board almost double for the agreed-upon amount of rent for the year ($300 per month was billed at $7K for the year). LCA recently sent out a press release about hiring their new CEO, the details were sketchy only saying she’s a native of the area and has 25 or more years in the service industry including time worked at various levels of the government. That all sounds good, but no details beyond that were given. No naming of the places she had worked or the most recent job she filled. On top of that, she’s been given instructions not to talk to the press or answer questions.

Really? Does the LCA have no comprehension of how this feels to onlookers? We want your money, but don’t presume to think we are willing to share how we spend it. The sad thing about it all is that it leaves such a bad taste behind and that sticks to even the people involved who are trying to do a great job for those they serve.

When your organization is covered in mud, don’t add to the problem by looking like you are hiding information. Be as transparent as possible, share as much detail as you can. What hard would it do to provide the previously places their new CEO worked? Above all, don’t spit in the face of people who have been supporting and funding your efforts.

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