Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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asheville_convention_and_visitors_bureau_2015The Asheville Citizen-Times last week published a story about the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, explaining the center’s complicated structure and the fact that it is funded by a local hotel room tax. The center has a nearly $9 million budget and pays out $1.7 million of that to the center’s 20 full-time and three part-time workers, the newspaper reported.

The Citizen-Times began looking into the pay following the recent government approval for increasing the room tax, and after a citizen journalist requested the emails of public officials regarding the room tax issue.

When the newspaper asked for a breakdown of individual pay for tourism employees, it was told that information was not public record. The Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau employees answer to an appointed public board, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, but are technically employees of the private nonprofit Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, the newspaper explained.

But the pay of top Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau employees can be found through a check of the chamber’s annual tax forms, which are public record at The Form 990s don’t offer a comprehensive list of pay to everyone, just to top employees. But at least it’s a start.

For the 2012 tax year, Marla Tambellini, assistant vice president at the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, was paid $127,671 in “reportable income,” according to the form. The pay for Stephanie Brown, the executive vice president of the bureau, wasn’t listed, probably because that was the year she was hired. (The 2012 tax year form is the most recent available.) The chamber’s next 990 should list Brown’s pay.

Tambellini had $101,407 in reportable income for the 2011 tax year, according to the tax forms. That same year, Kelly Miller, the bureau’s executive vice president who preceded Brown, was paid $171,185 in reportable income.

For a little context, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce’s CEO, Kit Cramer, was paid $254,236 in reportable income for the 2012 tax year, while Ben Teague, the senior vice president of economic development, was paid $135,869.



Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Megan September 17, 2015

    Serving themselves and the hotel industry.

  2. Icenine September 17, 2015

    $254,236 for a nonprofit employee….that sounds like profit to me.
    Probably about 8-10 times the average pay in Asheville.

  3. brian anderson September 16, 2015

    welcome to gatlinburg north carolina. you can work here, but you can’t live here.
    working people’s live matter!!

  4. Barry Summers September 16, 2015

    Speaking of tax shenanigans, it’s just been revealed that the new NCGOP budget raises taxes on things not previously taxed – car repairs and other services, etc. More of the shifting the tax burden onto working class people & off of the wealthy, as we’ve seen.

    But here’s the kicker – the new revenue, collected in all NC counties, will only get redistributed back to certain counties. Local winners and losers? Yep, you guessed it. Henderson Co. gets a slice, Buncombe Co. does not.

    Hey, didn’t I see somewhere that Henderson County Rep. Chuck McGrady was one of the GOP insiders writing the new budget? Huh. Whatta coinkydink.

    1. Barry Summers September 16, 2015

      And apparently, the new revenue can be used for unspecified “economic development projects”. So the State is taxing Buncombe County residents and businesses, and sending that money into a new slush fund for Henderson County.

      Sure, that seems fair.

    2. cwaster September 16, 2015

      Gee what a bargain! Smells fishy to me…

  5. Mark File September 16, 2015

    That’s a low salary when you consider all Marla and others have done to build the awareness of Asheville during the last 20 years – including generating millions of dollars worth of national media coverage each year and strategically planning to keep tourism on the right track for the area to protect and enhance the local flavor (and not become a Gatlinburg). The tourists support many businesses, not just hotels. The taxes they pay reduces the taxes that residents pay. Plus, the CVB promotion of the area is economic development, leading to many new businesses and jobs (mine included). Plus, us locals get to enjoy all the great restaurants, bustling downtown, free festivals and many other benefits tourism brings. Thanks for all they do.

    1. Selene September 24, 2015

      Wow, that’s a great set of blinders you’re wearing! Do they sell them at the Visitor Center gift shop? Local flavor is almost gone. National media coverage is overblown. Restaurants and festivals continue to become more commercial and less affordable. You may be profiting from all of this, but you are one of the few.

  6. Joe September 15, 2015

    If the only tax return available on Guidestar, then they havent filed a tax return in 2 years. Overpaid and non-compliant.

  7. Murphy September 15, 2015

    WOW… that’s was a pretty hefty “reportable” pay increase for Ms Tambellini from 2011 to 2012… $26,264.

    $26,264 is more than the average service employee (assuming a “living wage”) in AVL would earn, if they had a full-time position, in a year!

    That’s a lot of “assistant vice-presidenting”!

    1. Murphy September 15, 2015

      nevermind what she received that wasn’t “reportable”….

  8. JC Tripp September 15, 2015

    Yet the offical guide to Asheville is produced out of state. Go figure. A slap in the face to all of the great creative talent and under-employed graphic designers that reside in Asheville.

  9. AVL LVR September 15, 2015

    If Asheville is going to become a theme park, the visitors not the workers should pay for it. As the percentage of tourist use goes up, the percentage of what they pay should also go up. Instead of talking about raising our taxes, tap into the tourist/lodging tax to reduce our taxes.

    1. Barry Summers September 15, 2015

      But that would interrupt the cycle:

      Advertise for tourists to fill the hotels.

      Overbuild hotels to accommodate the anticipated surge of tourists.

      Spend even more money advertising for tourists to fill the glut of hotels.

      Build even more hotels.

      Demand a raise in the hotel tax to pay for even more advertising, ’cause you know… hotel glut.

      Share the “profits” of the hotel tax with Chamber employees, giving them an incentive to attract even more tourists…

      Rinse, repeat. Local taxpayers can just pay more and be happy that they live in a town that’s permanently clogged with tourists.

  10. Barry Summers September 15, 2015

    From the AC-T article:

    “Because of high hotel sales and a large amount of tax revenue, employees would qualify for bureauwide profit sharing as well as individual performance bonuses.”

    “Profit sharing”??? They are not only getting very nice salaries paid out of public tax revenues, they are not only getting bonuses on top of that, they are now also getting “profit sharing”? And this is all before that revenue jumps 50% because of the hotel tax increase passed this year. And Gods forbid that any of that money should go to help City taxpayers pay for the infrastructure that tourism impacts. That money needs to go to bonuses and “profit sharing” for the very people who are trying to bring ever-larger hordes of tourists here.

    No wonder that in one of those FOIA’d emails, the TDA finance chairman admitted that they should be “discrete” about it.

    1. Barry Summers September 15, 2015

      Many thanks to Patrick Conant of Code for Asheville for getting those internal TDA emails. BTW.

    2. Chris D. September 16, 2015

      Exactly. These guys are fishing in a trout hatchery and they think they are pro anglers. When the government forces revenue into your coffers, there is no such thing as “profit.”


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