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RSCVA staff criticize new CEO after Board of Directors meeting

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on

This story contains language some may find offensive.

UPDATE Dec. 10, 2020

RSCVA today issued the following statement in regards to last week’s incident:

“RSCVA staff received great news when the board of directors voted to restore employee salaries, which had been cut due to budgetary concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said CEO Charles Harris. “Clearly, this is still a challenging time for our community, for the travel industry, and also for the team here at the RSCVA.”

Prior board discussions had indicated staff would be getting backpay, but when the item went unanswered, as to whom was recommending no backpay, staff, it appears, felt caught in an awkward position. It was Harris’ first meeting with the organization’s board of directors.

Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Charles Harris has been on the job for two weeks. Thursday, his employees cursed and criticized him after his first board of directors meeting. One employee, speaking after the meeting but while the meeting was still being broadcast, said he was thrown under the bus by Harris during the meeting.

The comments appeared to be in response to the board’s last agenda item about an $8 million budget augmentation that will restore employee pay cuts. The organization’s budget is from room tax revenues, which have significantly dropped due to COVID-19. RSCVA has reduced its spending and staff as a result.

But income has been better than expected since cuts were first made, making available the $8 million.

Robert Chisel, RSCVA’s VP of finance, gave the budget update. He said 60% of the augmentation is for marketing. The budget will also reinstate employee salaries that have been cut.

RSCVA VP of Finance and Operations Robert Chisel.

However, the idea was discussed of paying back cut wages to RSCVA staff — about $188,000. The payback was not in the budget Chisel presented, which prompted questions from board members who had previously discussed the paybacks.

Board member Charlene Bybee asked about the possibility giving back to employees what had been cut from their paychecks during the pandemic.

“Yes, we talked about that, but the decision was made not to ask for that at this time,” Chisel responded.

Harris, however, said he would sit on the money for the time being, citing reduced travel and now not being the right time to invest in marketing.

“The majority of that money we will hold onto [until the time is right to invest in marketing],” he said.

The Chamber’s CEO Ann Silver, also a board member, asked if it was the staff’s recommendation not to issue retroactive pay.

Nobody responded. After a pause, Chisel then said, “That is the recommendation at this point.”

The meeting adjourned soon after that. One or two females and a male kept talking while the meeting was still streaming online.

A woman sounded as if she was laughing or crying.

A man said, “They don’t care.”

“I know,” a woman responded.

“You know, I would have expected … it’s like, throw me under the fucking bus, Mr. Harris,” the man said. “It was your decision.”

“Oh, my God!” a woman said. “That was unbelievable!”

“Make me be the bad guy,” the man continued. “I mean, Ann [Silver of The Chamber] could’ve said something.”

“She tried,” the woman replied.

“The mayor could’ve said something,” the man added.

RSCVA did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. It did not confirm the identities of those speaking at the end of the meeting.

The organization later in the day posted the video of the meeting. The above discussion was removed. A public records order was placed for the complete copy of the live-streamed video.  

RSCVA’s board also discussed at its meeting recommendations on being a “high functioning board” and re-imagining “the organization to create greater staff satisfaction…”

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