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Eye on Sedona Favors and Kickbacks

SedonaEye.com columnist, Eddie S. Maddock,

SedonaEye.com columnist, Eddie S. Maddock, with an opinion of  an October 8, 2013, Sedona City Council decision

Sedona AZ (October 9, 2013) – Coming as no big surprise, at the regular meeting October 8, 2013, Sedona City Council voted 4-2 to support increasing the bed tax “kickback” to the Chamber of Commerce from 50% to 55%, representing what appears to be considerably more than one million dollars. However, until actual revenue is collected that amount remains as an approximation.

Barbara Litrell and Rob Adams voted against the additional 5% while Sedona City Council Members John Martinez, Mark DiNunzio, Dan McIlroy and Jessica Williamson supported the additional increase.

Mike Ward was absent from the meeting.

There was no discussion about RFP’s (requests for proposals) included in the simple sort of commitment that MAYBE IF something in the way of how the money MIGHT BE spent MIGHT BE forthcoming after the first of the year when the increased bed tax goes into effect WOULD BE okay since the money won’t be disbursed until the first of July next year.

As for the theory of calling in favors, extortion or not, it appears to work. However, the question remains –  if it might have been more positive for Sedona in general if Greed had not prevailed? After all, this group which claims to do so much for all of us already had been pledged a solid 50%. Just for the sake of good will and keeping peace in the valley, it appeared those in charge thought otherwise.

The jovial response from Lodging Council Chair Steve Segner and his companion seated next to him in the front row was obvious, and rightfully so, as was the round of applause by those in the stacked audience not visible to the camera. Hopefully they are all out on the town spending lots of tax collectible money within incorporated Sedona City Limits to contribute to the local revenue base.

Sedona City Council in session

Sedona City Council in session

It was refreshing to listen to Mayor Rob Adams acknowledge there were other constituents besides those who were solicited to attend this Council Meeting. Also, Barbara Litrell wisely stuck by her original decision that 50% would be a prudent investment as a wait-and-see the outcome prior to increasing the kickback.

My reasoning for using the term “kickback” is specifically directed – that unless and until the Sedona Chamber of Commerce produces substantial plans and professional projections, what else does it represent? 

And so, chalk up another day as having expired in the battle to survive life in Sedona, no matter which side of the street you choose or may be forced to walk.

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For the best in Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!


  1. Kim says:

    People care but they don’t, when it gets in their wallets but not until then. People in Sedona like other places turn their backs on wrong doing all the time. It’s sad we don’t practice what we preach. I used to recommend people stay in Sedona and now I will recommend they stay in the VOC. That’s what I can do to say I don’t approve of what is going on.

  2. Jerry says:

    With under 10K people around here & if you want to get things done you talk to each other & you help each other & you do favors all the time. If it weren’t for the businesses here Sedona would be squat. That’s not wrong!!!!! Get a life!!!!!

  3. I agree with Jerry. Like it or not, the bulk of Sedona’s revenues come from a tourist-driven economy. Our local businesses are crucial in bringing the revenue necessary for City Government to handle all of the needs of our local citizenry. The Sedona Chamber and it’s members are a key part of our local economy. Sharing 55% of the Transient Occupancy Tax with the Chamber helps to bring back far more revenue to Sedona. This type of a partnership is common in tourist-driven cities and it’s a fact of life. We are fortunate to benefit from such an alliance. Without it, like it or not, we would be paying far greater local taxes.

  4. @Jerry:

    Judging from the outcome of the meeting, apparently you are correct. I hope you feel the same way if and when funding for infrastructure is not available and incorporated Sedona residents will be assessed property taxes in one form or the other.

    Believe it or not I, too, shop in Sedona but it isn’t because of millions of dollars City spends to promote the Chamber of Commerce. Oops I forgot. Residents don’t really matter here anymore.

  5. Julie says:

    WOW Jerry You must live in VOC with a business in VOC. Tax dollars are to be used for 100% of that want it collected for. You are right that the businesses in Sedona generate and bring in the sales tax. This is were the money is suppose to be used. Not for outlining areas. It is wrong to use it for any other purpose. Do you know how much business is lost to outlining areas? Even the locals shop outside the city to save those pennies. According to the COC locals don’t spend any money in the City. Only the tourists do. I say everyone needs a class in supporting the city based businesses. Its only 3% 3.5% keep Sedona strong buy staying in the sales tax district to shop.

  6. Could someone please explain? Isn’t there some kind of State law that the source of taxes must be where reinvestment goes? So a percentage of the bed tax must go back to benefit in this case Sedona’s lodging businesses since they are the ones to be collecting the increased tax?

    So unless other businesses have trickle-down sales then C of C shouldn’t be fostering direct advertising for them anyway and especially C of C members outside city limits. The Destination Marketing contract should serve to directly promote only hotel/motel businesses. Is that correct?

  7. Say What? says:

    yes@Marcella many tourist towns do that but only promote the actual tax paying bed tax businesses. Not a region. Don’t know any that use a chamber. This type of marketing is mostly done in-house or with a professional group. The city just did a oops as it will be impossible to show a good return. Keep in mind only those paying to be on visitsedona.com city lodging count on the return. This small group of TRUST ME now has to put money in those words. They have to prove those marketing dollars from lodging increased the city revenue 2 to 5 times the investment. They can’t claim all revenue as that is not their charter, only those involved with chambers destination group visitsedona.com which is NOT all chambers members. It is those that pay more to be part of the second group around 500 plus. Let the games begin.

  8. The following letter appears in Arizona Republic, 10/11/13:

    “Don’t Forget Full-Time Residents:

    It’s the time of the year when winter residents return, a big boost to the state’s economy.

    Signs will appear stating, ‘Welcome, snowbirds’ or Welcome back, visitors.’

    All very sincere and well-meant.

    It would also be appreciated by those who are here all year if the same signs were posted during the summer months saying, ‘Thank you, permanent residents, for your continuous support.’

    (from) Jim Misiuda, Mesa”

    What a novel concept and suggestion to actually acknowledge those of us who support the economy year-round, whether we live down in the valley or here in Sedona.

    Yoo-hoo, City Council, city staff and especially Chamber of Commerce. Put your money where your big mouths are and throw an occasional crumb to the local low life.

  9. FRIDAY 10/18 BEGINNING AT 9:00 AM. (Channel 4)

    2. ROLL CALL

    a. AB 1689 Discussion/possible action concerning possible changes to the City Code, Council Rules of Procedure and Policies in order to further clarify and define the powers and authority of City Council members and/or the Mayor.
    Areas of discussion may include, but not be limited to, the authority of individual
    Council members and/or the Mayor to:

    I. Initiate City-related projects with outside groups.

    ii. Involve City staff in initiating projects.

    iii. Form works groups, teams, committees or other entities to work on any
    type of City-related project.

    iv. Draft and disseminate proposals, resolutions or action plans related to
    City business. (9:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. 2.5 hours)

    b. AB 1691 Discussion/possible direction on the activities, actions and behavior of Council members and/or the Mayor. Areas of discussion may include, but not be limited to:

    I. Rules governing recusal and/or withdrawal from participation in
    discussions of agenda items.

    ii. Open Meeting Law discussion and possible concerns about compliance.

    iii. Council outside community involvement in and conduct related to political
    issues pending future Council consideration.

    iv. Council behavior and conduct during Council meetings. (11:30 a.m.-2:00
    p.m. 2.5 hours)

    c. Discussion/possible action on Future Meeting/Agenda Items. (5 minutes)

    Upon a public majority vote of the members constituting a quorum, the Council may hold an Executive Session that is not open to the public for the following purposes:

    a. To consult with legal counsel for advice on matters listed on this agenda per A.R.S. § 38-431.03(A)(3).

    b. Return to open session. Discussion/possible action on executive session items.

    c. Adjournment.

  10. Jean says:

    @ Special City Council Meeting 10/18

    OMG, initiate City-related projects with outside groups; form work groups, teams and committees; discuss outside council involvement in political issues; etc. Who will decide the business interests, out-of-towners, and those with regional agendas to serve? Is outreach to voters in an attempt to cram City Property Taxes down our throats forthcoming, or what?

    I thought the dole of $1.2 million annually to the special-interest Chamber of Commerce was ridiculous, but apparently we haven’t heard nothin’ yet when it comes to undemocratic ideas.

  11. Jim uptown says:

    Speaking of taxes and the Chamber of Commerce, let us not forget the C of C Board of Directors endorsed support for the School District Budget Increase Override.

    Let’s face it “they” are running the show and will all celebrate regally on their upcoming European “Rhine River Cruise” next month! But surely they deserve it after having finally pulled off their grand coup d’etats. *

    *coups d’état (k) or coup d’états (d-täz)
    The sudden overthrow of a government by a usually small group of persons in or previously in positions of authority.

    Only one thing not quite correct in the definition. No “sudden overthrow” here.

    It’s been a steady and persistent takeover allowed to happen by, quite frankly, what appears to be ignorant (or stupid) people in charge.

  12. Carol N. says:

    Normally I would say “so what” if a Chamber of Commerce endorsed some issue but not in this instance.

    Having followed pretty closely the obvious but clever and lengthy procedures implemented by those Chamber folks, together with their affinity lodging council, their ability to manipulate city funding without our city officials demanding competitive bidding for destination tourism marketing comes close to turning my blood to ice water thinking about “What is their connection with our school district?”

    Do they already have a foot in the door to use our “district” funding as an added incentive for additional city tax money to subsidize future events at the failed multi-million dollar performing arts center?

    Scary things happen at Halloween but this quite possibly beats all.

    Carol N.

    PS: I’m voting NO!

  13. Max says:

    As this becomes increasingly convoluted, suddenly the light dawns why the connection was made with this article, primarily about the Chamber of Commerce, and now the School Board request for Budget Override.

    In addition the connection was made in a comment on a different link relating to past conflict of interest investigation of a former (recently retired) Sedona City Staff member, John O’Brien, presently the sports announcer at the Red Rock High School. Coincidentally the topic of the conflict had to do with a present board member of the Sedona Oak Creek School District, John D. Miller, who was pretty much the center of the conflict of interest investigation and is presently involved with city negotiations on land acquisitions.

    No accusations are being made here, but it is my opinion that none of what is occurring within the City of Sedona (incorporated) relating to the Chamber of Commerce and now the Sedona Oak Creek School District passes the smell test.

    Many undetermined factors remain in question over and above the quality of education to be offered children which, unfortunately, appears to become buried deeper in this ongoing lust for power.

  14. The City Council meeting 10/18, 9:00 AM, will be held in the Vultee Conference Room and will not be available on Cable TV Channel 4. See agenda items in comments above.

  15. Well guess what Sedona City Council and Lodging Council? You fools have lost yet another event to a non-tax collecting venue outside Sedona City Limits. At the City Council meeting (10/22) Paul Chevalier announced the awards event for the Sedona Community Foundation will be held at the ENCHANTMENT RESORT sometime in November (next month.)

    So much for the illogical justification that “Oh those resorts outside City Limits send their guests to incorporated Sedona to shop and spend money there.” Well, just how many of those local folks attending the big event at “Enchantment” will be giving one cent return to Sedona “CITY” coffers? Zero amount.

    Great job Chamber of Commerce and affiliates (including City Council and staff) who remain more intent to send Sedona business outside City Limits since it remains more evident than ever that even charitable events don’t believe in “Shop and Support Sedona Businesses.”


    The Sedona Community Foundation will recognize the honorees that will receive a 2013 Spirit of Sedona Award during a November event at the Enchantment Resort in the following categories:

    Philanthropist of the Year
    Nonprofit Organization of the Year
    The Business Benefactor of the Year
    Volunteer of the Year

    On behalf of each honoree, SCF will contribute $1,000 to the Sedona nonprofit of their choice. During the event, SCF will also award grant funding to various nonprofit recipients of this year’s open competitive grant process.

  16. TO: Sedona Community Foundation
    ATTENTION: Leslie Hunt, Foundation Manager

    With all due respect to the “Foundation’s” freedom of choice to select the location for your annual awards event, my question for you is why the Enchantment Resort?

    Acknowledging the beauty, sophistication, charm, and over-all high quality of the Enchantment Resort, my concern is that it’s located outside the City Limits of incorporated Sedona.

    Perhaps you are not aware that a highly controversial Destination Marketing contract with the Sedona Chamber of Commerce is pending based on the recent increase in Sedona City Bed Tax. Frankly speaking, it will be the lodging facilities within City Limits which will be collecting this additional bed tax while total membership of the C of C will stand to benefit, many of those members (including Enchantment) are located outside City Limits and collect neither Sedona City Sales nor Bed Taxes.

    With the recent threat of imposing Sedona City Property taxes, issues pertaining to revenue sources has perhaps piqued at an all time high. Businesses outside City Limits that do not collect taxes and thus contribute nothing to the city tax base have been under scrutiny by both city based businesses and residents. This hostility has arisen largely because “out of City Limits” businesses factually stand to benefit from Sedona City Tax revenue now to be included in the Destination Marketing contract pending with the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. Although, in your instance, bed taxes aren’t an issue, it surprises me that city based lodging owners/operators and other comparable facilities wouldn’t, in fact, be protesting the diversion of events to non-tax contributors outside Sedona City Limits. And, of course, Enchantment Resort will not be required to collect Sedona City Sales Tax on your gala and I would suspect rather costly event.

    Further distress has occurred because neither the City Council nor Sedona City Staff were willing to seek Requests for Proposals from professional advertising agencies that would not be obligated to serve members who questionably do not merit public funded advertising which will compete with Sedona based businesses.

    That being said, for no other reason than to display an effort to patronize legitimate Sedona City licensed businesses, in my opinion it would have been more palatable for your very worthwhile organization and related efforts to honor those who are, in fact, contributing to the Sedona tax base over and above residents and tourists who shop here.

    Noting that a very feeble justification excuse to include “outsiders” in broad-based advertising, that by so doing Sedona somehow would realize a questionable trickle-down effect from patrons spending a few dollars in town, is like the tail wagging the dog. The “base” should rightfully be in Sedona with the potential trickle-down outside Sedona City Limits.

    And as for your event to be held out of town, there obviously is no chance for “trickle-down” benefits since the patrons are not visiting guests – commonly known as tourists.

    Having had the pleasure of attending one of your award functions several years ago held at L’Auberge de Sedona I can attest first hand that the purpose for which you exist is top of the line. However, I find it very sad that apparently you are no longer able to find a top of the line location within Sedona City Limits which you believe merits recognizing honorees at your annual event.


    Eddie S. Maddock
    Sedona Registered Voter
    October 23, 2013

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