WSAZ | Charleston, West Virginia | News

UPDATE: CVB Names New CEO

By: Anna Baxter, Brooks Jarosz, The Associated Press Email
By: Anna Baxter, Brooks Jarosz, The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 2/15/12 @ 9:15 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau will soon be under new leadership.

During the CVB's meeting Wendesday, Alisa Bailey was named the as the new CEO.

Bailey will start on April 2. She is currently the president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. She's served as the CEO for 8 years.

Bailey is a native of Charleston, West Virginia. She served as the West Virginia State Tourism Director from 1996-2001.

Board members voted to terminate longtime President and CEO, Patty Bradley last year after the Bureau's Director of Operations, Tracie Breedlove Dennis, 38, was charged with forgery and uttering.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau's annual budget is about $1.5 million. Police say $100,000 to $237,000 may be missing from its accounts.

At the time, board members would not comment if their decision to terminate Bradley was connected to the embezzlement case. They would say Bradley is not suspected of taking any money.



UPDATE 12/14/11 @ 10:15 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Board members with the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) had a meeting Wednesday that was held mostly behind closed doors.

The board went into executive session on Wednesday shortly after the meeting got underway.

According to a board member, the board was discussing personnel issues.

After the meeting, a board member told WSAZ.com a search committee was formed so they can begin interviewing candidates for a new President and CEO of the CVB.

Last week board members voted to terminate longtime President and CEO, Patty Bradley.

The move came about a month after the bureau's director of operations, Tracie Breedlove Dennis, 38, was charged with forgery and uttering.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau's annual budget is about $1.5 million. Police say $100,000 to $237,000 may be missing from its accounts.

Board members would not comment if their decision to terminate Bradley was connected to the embezzlement case. They would say Bradley is not suspected of taking any money.

The board named Jama Jarrett as the interim director last week. She is currently the communications and operations director at the CVB.

During the meeting Wednesday, board members voted to increase her pay by $1,000 a month while she serves as the interim director.

A board member also tells WSAZ.com the board hopes to have a short list of names of possible CEO candidates in the next two months. So far, the agency has received interest from several people, including some local applicants.



UPDATE 12/7/11 @ 9:45 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Board members with the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau voted to terminate President and CEO, Patty Bradley at a meeting Wednesday morning.

This comes about a month after the bureau's director of operations -- 38-year-old Tracie Breedlove Dennis -- was charged with forgery and uttering.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau's annual budget is about $1.5 million. Police say $100,000 to $237,000 may be missing from its accounts.

Board members would not comment if their decision to terminate Bradley was connected to the embezzlement case. They would say Bradley is not suspected of taking any money.

Jama Jarrett has been named interim director. She is currently communications and operations director at the CVB.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 11/16/11 @ 3:40 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The president of the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau is on paid administrative leave following the arrest of a subordinate on embezzlement charges.

Spokeswoman Jama Jarrett says the board voted Wednesday to remove Patty Bradley, but she won't say why or how long the leave would last.

The Associated Press reports the bureau's director of operations - 38-year-old Tracie Breedlove Dennis - was charged last week with forgery and uttering.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau's annual budget is around $1.5 million. Police say $100,000 to $237,000 may be missing from its accounts.

Dennis has since been fired.

The criminal complaint says she forged Bradley's name on a $513 check made out to Dennis' young daughter.

Bureau checks require two signatures and Bradley's is required on checks below $1,000.



ORIGINAL STORY
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A former employee at the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau is facing criminal charges after money went missing from the agency.

Police say Tracie Breedlove Dennis, 38, of Charleston, is charged with embezzlement, forgery and uttering. According to the agency's website, Dennis was the Director of Office Operations at the CVB.

Dennis turned herself into police Thursday morning.

Police say the investigation began this summer when the agency was notified of "red flags" in the CVB's accounts.

"We're talking about all our money here. If someone steals our money, as the taxpayers, we take it very seriously," Sgt. Bobby Eggleton said.

According to the criminal complaint, Dennis requested a check from the agency's contracted independent accounting firm, Herman and Cormany. The check was made out to the defendant's juvenile daughter for the amount of $513.24 and Dennis signed Patricia Bradley's name on the check, according to the complaint.

Bradley is the President and CEO of the CVB and the only person who is authorized to sign the agency's checks below $1,000 once they are received from Herman and Cormany.

According to the criminal complaint, Dennis took the check to her bank and deposited $363.24 into her personal checking account and then received $150 cash.

"She had the checks, she had access to them, she went to the bank. If you have access to that kind of money, you pretty much start at this point and you'll probably finish at that point also and we did," Sgt. Eggleton said. "It's pretty easy to find once you start looking at the checks because people that we talked to would say, 'I never signed that,' and then when we started looking at the signatures, it's pretty easy to see once you start seeing it."

Investigators tell WSAZ.com they can track that Dennis took more than $100,000 from the agency. The case is still under investigation.

Originally, the CVB only thought about $20,000 was missing from the agency's account. However, once the investigation got underway police found more than $100,000 in unaccounted funds. Police say once the audit is complete they expect the amount to grow even more to possibly more than $200,000.

Mayor Danny Jones says he was the person who reported this issue to police. He says every check from the CVB has two signatures. Jones tells WSAZ.com the checks Dennis forged had one authentic signature, but the other was forged by her.

"I feel violated as a member of the board and as a member of the city...somebody who's tried hard to improve our city and we have," Mayor Jones said. "It's demeaning and unfortunate and unfair."

This alleged crime happened in Kanawha County over the past year.

"I can't even believe it happened, how did it go for so long? How did we not see it?," Mayor Jones said. "It's [CVB] the mechanism by which is used to bring people here who aren't here to come spend money in our town, to stay in our hotels and to have that kind of money stolen is just unfathomable."

Dennis was arraigned in Kanawha County Magistrate Court and then posted bond.

If convicted, Dennis faces up to 20 years in prison.

She's expected to be back in court on November 18 for a preliminary hearing. The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Dennis' husband and her attorney were at the arraignment. Both declined comment.

Dennis is no longer an employee at the CVB.

Statement Released from the CVB
"We're not going to be any more specific about the investigation other than to say that once we discovered the misuse of funds we contacted the police.

We will continue to work with the department through its investigation."


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