A move by the Camden County Commission may ignite a firestorm of controversy with the Tri-County Lodging Association and the Lake Area Business District, the entity that distributes the $1.8 million collected on overnight stays from facilities within the county.

A move by the Camden County Commission may ignite a firestorm of controversy with the Tri-County Lodging Association and the Lake Area Business District, the entity that distributes the $1.8 million collected on overnight stays from facilities within the county. 

Each of the 3 counties in the district have a business district that receives the tax that then goes into TCLA. 

Earlier this week, the commission met in closed session to discuss action against TCLA, including a request for the Camden County Prosecuting Attorney to look into the organization’s structure and funding mechanisms. The county is also questioning whether or not the business district has a valid contract with Camden County. The county collects the lodging tax then turns it over to TCLA. 

Although the commissions actions stem from the recent debate over the proposed lodging tax increase to fund a soccer destination complex, there are also concerns over where some of TCLA funds go.

Voters in Camden, Miller and Morgan counties soundly defeated the tax proposal that would have increased the lodging tax. 

Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty has been at the forefront of the discussions since a group of citizens and members of the lodging association came to the Camden County Commission with a list of concerns about how TCLA is operating. The group that approached the county was opposed to the soccer complex proposal, characterizing it as an attempt by TCLA to use tax dollars to fund a project that would not benefit the entire lake area. Their concerns included questioning TCLA’s transparency as a tax supported entity and that appeared to be involvement several years ago in an effort to pass legislation that would have had an impact on homeowners who do short term rentals. 

TCLA and Hasty have had several exchanges, primarily through letters that have been made available to the public. TCLA was also the topic of a discussion held earlier this week with Hasty. 

On Wed., Nov. 27, the county commission issued a press release outline their actions during the closed session. In an interview, Hasty said the commission wants to ensure that TCLA/the Lake Area Business District is in compliance with state statutes and has a valid contract with the county. 

Hasty said based on the information the county has, the commissioners believe they need to ensure the business district has a contract with Camden County and that a contract is in place for Miller and Morgan County. The commission also feels it is their obligation to make sure state statutes are being followed. 

Although the county has limited authority, Hasty said they do have the right to impose some regulations. 

“If there is a problem, we want it fixed,” he said. “We need the organization. This is not an attempt to dismantle it but to bring it into compliance. We are trying to facilitate that.”

At this point, he said, the county is not looking at withholding funding. The county does, he said, want to make certain tax dollars are being used for legal purposes. As of Wednesday, Divincen says the TCLA has not received any formal notice from the Camden County Commission.