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RSCVA Board Fires Its Leader


The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority—or RSCVA—is looking for a new leader after firing President and CEO Chris Baum today. Reno Public Radio’s Anh Gray reports.

Baum has been with the agency for about four years, during his time tourism in the region has experienced modest growth.

When board members convened they heard just two public comments before voting on whether to oust Baum. The first was from Kim Surratt with the Reno Rodeo Association, which holds its annual rodeo at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center. This facility is one of several owned and operated by the visitors authority.

“We’re here today to mainly  express our complete frustration with the lack of maintenance, updates and communications regarding the Reno Livestock Events Center," Surratt says. "The Reno Rodeo Association is selling out its performances; we have outgrown our grandstands; we have outgrown our footprint.”

Jerry Hawkins also stepped up to the mic. He’s a former RSCVA board member who vouched for Baum saying he’s been delivering good results for the organization and that the termination doesn’t make sense.

“It’s probably too late to reconsider your actions today but I really have to question how the board sees starting over again for the fourth time in 15 years is in the best interest of Reno and Lake Tahoe," Hawkins says. "At what point are you going to change the way you do business?”

The board is known for infighting and several members have been vocal about its ineffectiveness. Recently, lawmakers actually shrunk the size of the board from thirteen members down to nine.

Chairman of the board Bob Lucey, who’s  also a Washoe County Commissioner, voted for Baum’s dismissal. He says Reno is moving away from its worn-out image as a gambling town and they need fresh ideas to better promote the region.   

“I think that there is a new perspective for the region that needs to be achieved," Lucey says. "There’s an evolution of our area as we move forward into a new day that I deeply believe that we need new leadership.”

The only board member to abstain from voting was Vice-Chairman Dennis McGovern.  He says no sufficient reasons for the drastic move have been given.

“I feel that personally that if I was voting yes or no on this motion that I would be accepting the legitimacy of this motion," McGovern says, "and, personally, I do not, and, therefore, I will be abstaining.”

With McGovern’s abstention and another board member’s absence, the final vote was five to two in favor of firing Baum. Under his employment contract, termination without cause will entitle him to a severance package with six-month’s pay and fringe benefits. His annual salary is more than $230 thousand.  

Board member and Mayor Hillary Schieve says their next leader should be a visionary.

“We have one-time to get it right," Schieve says. "I think we can find someone dynamic. Reno is on an upswing, and who wouldn’t want to love and promote Reno.”

To move forward, Co-Chairman John Farahi with the Atlantis Casino urged the board to remain focused on developing  their five-year strategic plan. The goal for this plan is to offer a blueprint on how to attract more visitors to the region.

“Stay on top of this strategic plan so that we do not have a hiccup,” Farahi says.

The board is scheduled to meet next week to talk about selecting an interim leader. So far, two current members of the agency’s executive staff have been suggested for the position.