TV Report Questions Brochure, Video Spending on Tourism

A tourism brochure estimated to cost taxpayers $15,000 wound up costing more than $100,000, according to a WSMV-TV report on the state Department of Tourist Development. Also questioned is spending of state funds on a video praising Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker and former Gov. Phil Bredesen.
The tourism trail brochures called Walking Tall promote all Tennessee has to offer and are full of individual information on tourist destinations across the state. The ad agency White Thompson, which won the state bid for the brochures, indicated it would cost about $15,000 to develop six brochures, plus about $4,000 for the logo.
But when the I-Team began inspecting the invoices, it found that just a year later, the estimate to finish the brochures had doubled. The estimate for the brochure a year later jumped to about $40,000 to finish the same brochure.
In the end, it cost $64,000. Add on the printing, and the final total was more than $100,000 in tax dollars to put the brochure in tourist destinations across the state.
…Whitaker wouldn’t answer questions on camera, but her public information officer sent an email, saying that this is “an excellent use of state dollars, because of the return on the investment. Early estimates of the cost for the trails were made without any precedents to benchmark and had to be revised and approved as the work was done.”
The email noted, “We have ‘gone to school’ on what works well and what could be improved, in terms of costs of the brochures.”
…In a video that tax dollars paid for, thanking the commissioner for doing her job, executives across the state can be seen thanking her for her work promoting tourism.
It features her family and was a shown at a state tourism convention along with another video thanking then-Gov. Phil Bredesen for doing his job.
According to state invoices, those videos cost taxpayers more than $15,000.
“A video with taxpayer money, thanking them for the job they got paid to do, seems a little overboard,” said (Justin) Owen (of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research) .
The public information officer for Tourist Development said in her email that although the commissioner requested the thank-you video for the governor be made, Whitaker didn’t know there was also a video being made to thank her for her work.
It’s unclear how much the commissioner reviews her department’s spending. For the hundreds of invoices the I-Team looked at for these projects, she didn’t sign off on a single one.

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