City of Riverton to audit Chamber’s use of public tourism funding

    (Riverton, WY) — The WYRiverton Chamber and Visitors Center announced in a letter to its Members on Monday, March 4, 2024, that Executive Director, Tiffany Cortez, was no longer in that role. No additional details were given. Subsequently, information has emerged that Cortez was terminated following allegations she made against the Chamber’s Executive Board.

    On Wednesday, March 6th, County 10 received an anonymous screenshot of what appeared to be a section of an electronic newsletter. The screenshot contained information about Cortez’s departure and the Chamber’s current financial situation. 

    Riverton City Administrator Kyle Butterfield verified in an email that he recognized the document as a weekly report provided to the City Council and Senior Staff each Friday.


    The document says that Cortez had alerted City staff that the Chamber had transferred $1,800 in Tourism Asset Development (TAD) funds into the Chamber’s operating account without Cortez’s knowledge. According to the document, this transfer violates a 2023 agreement between the City of Riverton and the Chamber prohibiting this type of transfer without express permission from the City.

    TAD funding comes from the lodging tax paid by visitors to Fremont County who stay in local hotels. The funding is managed by the Wind River Visitors Council for the promotion of travel and tourism in Fremont County. The WRVC gives 25 percent of lodging tax dollars collected in Fremont County back to local communities. 

    In Riverton, TAD funds are given to the Chamber of Commerce to be distributed in support of projects and events that impact local tourism. An application process, managed by the Chamber, allows organizations to request grants for use of TAD funding.

    According to the agreement cited in the briefing document, the Chamber must “keep funds received under the TAD program in a specifically designated account…separate from other Chamber funds and will not use the same for Chamber operations, personnel costs, or purposes, unless prior permission is received…and is consistent with TAD rules, guidelines, and regulations.”


    The document goes on to say that this instance might not be the first and that there is concern they have “been using TAD monies to support operations and cash flow through the years.” Concerns have also been raised about how the Chamber tracks and reports TAD funds.

    The information about the transfer, provided to the City by Cortez, prompted an audit of the TAD funds by the City of Riverton.

    The Wind Riverton Visitors Council was also made aware of the transfer and pending audit. WRVC Director Helen Wilson said that they had “been made aware by the City of Riverton that it is conducting an audit of the WY Riverton Chamber and Visitors Center due to allegations brought against it for a potential violation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Riverton and the WY Riverton Chamber and Visitors Center in regards to Tourism Asset Development (TAD) funds,” Wilson wrote to County 10 in an email. 


    “We are waiting for the results of this audit, and we stand ready to cooperate with the City of Riverton.”

    TAD funds can be used for salaries for frontline persons who answer tourist, convention and tour type inquiries and the like, according to a July 1993 Attorney General opinion.

    The screenshot of the City’s briefing document also says that the Chamber is “experiencing financial hardship” and that its operating account was overdrawn by $2,000 even after the TAD transfer, “with payroll and taxes still pending.”


    Following Cortez’s termination, Julie Buller, a member of the Chamber’s Executive Board, was named Interim Director. County 10 confirmed with Buller that the aforementioned $1,800 was transferred to their operating account.

    She said that the Chamber did advance that amount from TAD funds to help offset the salary of the Chamber’s administrative employee.

    “We thought it was totally acceptable because it was the Board’s understanding that the funds could be used for the Visitors Center portion [of the Chamber’s operations] and salaries under the Visitors Center.”

    “Yes, we were short on payroll,” she continued. “We had intended not to use [TAD] funds until it was absolutely necessary.”

    Buller said the Board did not realize they needed to go through the Riverton City Council first to ask if they could use the money in this way. She also said that the $1,800 has been reimbursed to the TAD account.

    “It’s no secret the Chamber has struggled to be financially sound for years,” Buller noted. “The Chamber has never been sustainable with just memberships; it has needed help from the City through its contract for services.”

    In explanation of Cortez’s actions which led to the termination, the document given to County 10 says that “Amid these problems, Tiffany Cortez issued communication to the Chamber Board asking for action against the Chamber’s executive committee.“ 

    “In response, the Board requested on Friday that Tiffany sign a letter of resignation that they had drafted. She refused and was subsequently terminated,” the document concludes.

    County 10 contacted Cortez, who shared the following statement:

    “Out of concern for the best interest of the membership of the Riverton Chamber, my own integrity, and that of the organization, I voiced my concerns about not only the actions of the executive board and their ability to lead the Chamber but the current financial situation the organization was facing. And rather than being asked to elaborate, I was asked to sign a letter of resignation to which I refused. I apologize to every member who put their faith in me. I wanted to be there for you all for years to come, and would continue to be there for you again in a heartbeat if the circumstances were different.”

    Buller said that Cortez presented a two-and-a-half-page letter to the Chamber Board asking for a vote of no confidence in the Executive Board. According to Buller, Cortez would be compelled to resign if they were to stay in their positions.

    The current Executive Board consists of Buller, James Bunker, Devon Kellerhall, and Victor Allen. The full Chamber Board includes Terry Heard, Michelle Louma, Alma Law, and Morgan Doyle.

    According to Buller, a Board meeting was called immediately after receiving Cortez’s letter. Instead of letting go of the Executive Board, they decided to accept her letter of resignation and terminate her if she didn’t resign.

    “She elected not to resign. So, unfortunately, we terminated her,” she said.


    Related Posts

    Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?