CAMDENTON, Mo. -- In a letter to Camden County Commissioners, attorney Ivan Schraeder writes the commission has no clear authority to withhold tax dollars from the Lake of the Ozarks Business District or Tri County Lodging Association.
"What we're probably headed toward here is that a judge is going to have to make a ruling in regard to that contractual relationship," said Greg Hasty, Presiding Commissioner.
Many small resort owners have started questioning how the TCLA spends it's $1.9 million collected every year from lodging taxes, and have asked the Camden County Commission to freeze the funding going to the organizations.
"We have seen that a lot of the money is going to the Convention and Visitors Bureau. That entity is a non-profit that doesn't even report any annual IRS tax returns, nothing to the state auditor, nothing," said Gail Griswold, Owner of Shawnee Bluff Winery. "So, the non-profit that is giving money to another non-profit that doesn't have to report, that needs to stop."
Resort owners started questioning the TCLA and Business District's operations while the two groups - which share the same board - pushed for an increase in lodging tax in Camden, Miller, and Morgan Counties.
That tax was to help build a tournament soccer complex in Osage Beach, but voters in all three counties overwhelmingly rejected it.
According to state law, a county commission is supposed to adopt rules and regulations for the collection and administration of tax money when it comes to political subdivisions like a business district.
"It appears when it was first set up, the commission failed to do that. They didn't write any rules regarding the administration of the tax," said Commissioner Don Williams.
The TCLA was set up in 1993. None of the current county commissioners held office at that time.
"However, it goes on to say that if and when the commission writes those rules, it says then we may be able to withhold their funding," Williams added.
The commissioners believe there are several reasons to withhold money from going to the business district and TCLA.
They plan to hand everything over to Camden County Prosecuting Attorney Heather Miller.
"We're currently seeking more legal guidance, too, because we need some clarification on that phrase, 'may be able,'" Williams said.
Jim Divincen, the administrator for the TCLA emailed KY3/KSPR's Andrew Havranek a statement after the 6:00 p.m. story aired.
“County contracts are authorized by statute and are required to be in writing. See 432.070, RSMo. The 2011 Contract was not made with the Collector in her individual capacity, but rather, in her official capacity. It fully complies with Section 432.070, RSMo. Pursuant to its terms, the contract continues in effect unless "terminated upon one-year written notice by either party." Because it has not been terminated, it continues in full force and effect.”
"On another note, today during the TCLA Board meeting, we’ve set up meetings with those TCLA facility owners who have concerns or questions regarding our operations or what specific marketing activities we use to promote the Lake. We plan to do our best in responding to those questions and hopefully receive suggestions on how we can better market the Lake of the Ozarks moving forward."