A legal opinion sought by the Camden County Commission to clarify what, if any authority they have over the Lake of the Ozarks Business District and Tri-County Lodging Association, leaves some question as to what they can do at this point. The attorney the county sought advice from suggests using the Missouri Sunshine Law to gain more insight.

A legal opinion sought by the Camden County Commission to clarify what, if any authority they have over the Lake of the Ozarks Business District and Tri-County Lodging Association, leaves some question as to what they can do at this point. The attorney the county sought advice from suggests using the Missouri Sunshine Law to gain more insight.

The legal opinion is the latest in the ongoing discussions lead by Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty. The commission got involved after being approached by a group of lodging association members and business owners who questioned TCLA’s authority. The group came to the commission during the days leading up to the controversial vote on a lodging tax increase in Camden, Morgan and Miller counties to fund a $20-plus million soccer destination complex in osage Beach.

TCLA is the agency that distributes the lodging tax collected in the 3 counties surrounding Lake of the Ozarks. The tax is earmarked for promoting the lake as a vacation destination. The Lake of the Ozarks Business District is the political subdivision in Camden County that collects the tax for TCLA. 

Based on the documents released by the county pursuant to a Missouri Sunshine Law request, 

The legal opinion was rendered by Ivan Schraeder, who has worked with the county on several different issues. 

According to his opinion, the business district was created by election and confirmed as to legal existence in a lawsuit decided in November 2012. The district was authorized to contract with TCLA in that same lawsuit. Schrader said attorneys were not able to locate any organizational documents for TCLA through the usual governmental filings.

In order to identify what relationship exists between the two entities, the Commission should use the Sunshine Law to access public records. The district, which is a "public governmental body" pursuant to Sec. 610.010(4) RSMo, records can be obtained by a Sunshine Law request in writing setting out what documents are desired. Here are the preliminary documents that should be obtained:

1. Minutes of all meetings of the district, including notices, agenda, and contracts approved by the District.

2. Copies of all records of the district, identifying the Advisory Board members and their respective appointments and terms of office and what type of lodging entity that they represent.

3. Copies of all governing documents of the district.

4. Copies of all contracts entered between the district and TCLA. Contracts authorized by the district.

5. Copies of all financial reports created after January 1, 2013.

6. Reports generated by TCLA relating to the contract(s) with the district.

The TCLA is a "quasi-governmental body" pursuant to Sec. 610.010(4)(f) RSMo, whose records can be obtained by a Sunshine Law request in writing setting out what document are being requested. 

Schrader went on to provide a list of documents the county should request. The list included minutes, contracts, and financial reports.

“Once these records are obtained from TCLA and the District, we will be able to advise the County Commission of any authority, if any, it may have to oversee the two entities. However as of now, it does not appear that the County Commission has any authorized oversight or control of either entity,” he said. 

Schrader said it does not appear the county has the authority to withhold funs without a court order since the business district is a political subdivision. 

However, under state statute provides for the collector to contract for collection of the fees and for the county commission to "adopt rules and regulations for the collection and administration of the tax." If the rules are not complied with, the County Commission may be able to direct the collector to withhold funds until compliance is met. 

“We would like to review the County Collector's contract for collection of the fees for the district and the minutes of the meeting in which the County Commission approved that contract,” Schrader said. 

The county commission has not said what steps they intend to take at this point.