Direct talks are best path to proper hotel tax operation

A lawsuit filed against the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, its CEO and two Lycoming County commissioners alleging improper use of hotel tax funding has been withdrawn.

That’s good news and reasonable action.

But judging by the comments of local attorney Bob Elion, who filed the suit, the withdrawal is anything but a concession regarding his original claims.

Elion filed the suit July 1 on behalf of the Lycoming County Citizens for Hotel Tax, alleging the chamber acts against the purpose of the county hotel tax with a “deliberate scheme to exclude all non-chamber entities.”

The attorney says the suit was dropped only because technical legal roadblocks posed by the defendants would have dragged the case on for years, creating costs that are unaffordable. He expressed regret that the legal process made it impossible to quickly get to the real merits of the case.

The best news is that Elion accepted the chamber’s invitation to meet and discuss hotel tax concerns of the citizens committee.

A professional discussion, not a lawsuit, is probably the most practical path to a positive outcome in this case.

Perhaps there is room for compromise regarding use of hotel tax funds as they relate to non-chamber members. The road to such a compromise is probably much easier to find in face-to-face discussions rather than legal machinations.

The second necessity is for the commissioners to monitor very closely the hotel tax function to make sure the money is being used as intended.

Close watchdogging of the use of hotel tax money by the chamber is entirely legitimate. But the purposes of everyone from taxpayers to tourism operations to the committee and chamber will be best served if direct communication – not legal wrangling and political grandstanding – is the primary pathway.

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