Fresno CVB in Turmoil Over Contract

Fresno, CA -- A board member of the Fresno City & County Convention & Visitors Bureau resigned yesterday over a controversy in which he received a no-bid contract to publish the bureau's visitors guide.

Gordon Webster Jr., owner of Pacific Publishing, in April had signed a three-year agreement with the bureau's executive director, Wayne Bennett, to produce the guide and receive all revenue from advertising that appeared in it.

Other board members and city officials complained that the agreement had been struck without board approval. They also said it violates the bureau's conflict-of-interest rules against board members doing business with the bureau.

Nonetheless, the board overwhelmingly approved the contract for one year, as work is already proceeding on the new guide. But they agreed that contracts for subsequent guides be open to competitive bidding.

The current controversy comes on the heels of city scrutiny of the bureau's financial management -- the bureau receives city funding -- sparked by the failure of bureau officials to detect the embezzlement of about $56,000.

Deanna Gonzalez, the bureau's former bookkeeper, pleaded guilty to felony grand theft earlier this month in connection with the case.

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