Any organization requesting public money should be financially accountable. That includes Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Johnson County, formerly called the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce.
Last January, Gardner City Council members approved providing $20,000 to the local Chamber organization. Before the council approve funding the group next year, council members should request more information from the Chamber, which recently admitted it has lost its tax-exempt status.
Specifically, council members should inquire:
• Who does the Chamber of Commerce for Southwest Johnson County represent?
• Can documents on the chamber’s name change be provided? Is the newly-named organization registered with the Kansas Secretary of State?
• Is the organization a legal entity? Is it incorporated and does it have a 501©6 or a 501©3 and can the group provide that documentation?
• Can the organization provide a membership list to the city council?
• Who is on the chamber board and what are the group’s bylaws?
• What type of financial accountability will the Chamber provide the city for their use of taxpayer money? Can they provide monthly reports and an accounting of past funds?
• Will a Chamber representative attend council and school board meetings?
• What evidence can be provided to show that the group has actively worked to represent local businesses?
• Will an office and phone be staffed on a regular basis to facilitate this effort?
• Will the website or newsletter be updated on a regular basis?
• Are proper accounting procedures in place at the chamber to protect taxpayer monies?
Any organization requesting public funds should be able and willing to answer these basic questions.