Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chamber Trip Story Inaccurate

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chamber Trip Story Inaccurate

Article excerpt

Byline: Wayne Ezell

A recent story perpetuated inaccurate and unfair reporting about a trip to New Orleans last year that was sponsored by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

The May 3 story about planned trips to Charleston and China referred to a Nov. 19, 2006, story about last year's trip.

"A Times-Union review showed the chamber of commerce kept $100,000 of the $361,000 trip costs to pay its own expenses," the May story said.

Chamber officials have maintained that the $100,000 number is inaccurate and misleading, and I agree.

According to the chamber's projections at the time, which the newspaper relied on for its Nov. 19 story, the chamber collected $326,005 in revenue to pay for the costs associated with the New Orleans trip. It spent $324,500.

The revenue included about $80,000 from local government funds for sponsorships and to pay for 34 public officials to attend along with more than 100 other business and civic leaders.

The projected expenses included $62,200 in staff time to plan, coordinate and attend the trip and a follow-up meeting on Jan. 31.

In addition to, and separate from, the $324,500 in direct expenses, was an additional line for "Allocation (Indirect Cost)" of $37,200, which includes overhead such as building rent and utilities. Such full-cost allocation is common for not-for-profit organizations. If the overhead of $37,200 was included, the chamber would show a loss on the trip.

"CHAMBER TRIP: WHO BENEFITS MOST?" asked the lead front-page headline. Above that headline was this lead-in to suggest an answer:

"When the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce took its annual leadership trip to New Orleans at the start of this month, tax dollars paid about 22 percent of the bill. But that money covered more than just the basic trip expenses -- at least $100,000 of it never left the chamber, even with the four-star treatment on Bourbon Street."

Below the headline, large numbers informed "What was collected" was $326,005, "What was spent" was $361,739, "Taxpayer cost" was $80,000 and "Chamber keeps at least" $100,000. The $100,000 was in red type.

Based on those numbers, would you wonder how the collected number could be $326,000 and the spent number could be $361,700 and the chamber could keep $100,000? …

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