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Riding In Style: Tour Organizers Ran Up Huge Bills On Luxurious Meals, Alcohol, Room Service

As noted earlier this week, an independent accounting agency recently completed a review of records for Tour of Missouri, Inc., the corporation created by Lt. Governor Peter Kinder to manage the state-subsidized Tour of Missouri. The report criticized TOM, Inc. for its lack of "policies and procedures for handling its finances."  Payments were made to vendors without sufficient documentation, payments exceeded the contracted amounts, and there were no clear policies about what constituted "allowable expense reimbursements."

Beyond basic accounting irregularities, the accountants' report also alludes to a number of eyebrow-raising expenses for the 2008 Tour.  Public documents provided by the Office of Administration and Department of Economic Development show massive food and drink bills, room service charges and more. For instance, race organizers and managers spent $19,999 at St. Louis' J. Buck's Restaurant on food and liquor one evening at the race's "wrap party"; $17,533 for food and alcohol at the Hyatt Crown Center two days before the 2008 race started; and, for a more private audience, a $94 room service cheese and wine platter for two.

Details below the break.

Big food and alcohol bills
A number of events in September 2008 came with significant food and bar bills. For instance, at the conclusion of the race on September 14, organizers ran up a whopping $19,999.13 bill at J. Buck's in St. Louis:

  • $6,460 for an open bar
  • $9,196 for a buffet
  • $2,818 in gratuity

And that total doesn't include entertainment for the party, which cost an additional $2,030. The previous week, before the race began, organizers spent an impressive $17,533 at the Hyatt Crown Center in Kansas City:

  • $3,443 on alcohol
  • $150 on bartenders
  • $9,639 on food
  • $2,747 in service charges

In just a few days before the race, organizers spent $37,812 on meals, alcohol, drinks and room service at the Kansas City Airport Hilton. Most of that money was for banquet meals, but a cool $94.14 was spent on a room service cheese and wine platter for two.

Based on an initial review of other expense reports obtained with a Sunshine request to the Dept. of Economic Development, charging room service meals to the Tour was not necessarily an infrequent practice. For instance, the morning after the big party at the Hyatt Crown Center noted above, a separate room service breakfast was happily expensed to TOM, Inc.

Hospitality Expenses
Tour organizers also spent large sums of money on hospitality areas for the race. A total of $51,200 was paid to Creative Events for hospitality expenses over a four day span last year (9/11/08-9/15/08) as follows:

  • $34,100 for "hospitality" charges (presumably food and drink)
  • $5,550 for servers
  • $5,600 for bartenders   
  • $4,000 for linens and buffet equipment rentals
  • even $2,000 for Ted Drewes Ice Cream

In addition, $10,000 was paid to a "hospitality coordinator" without supporting documentation or contract, and $2,270 was paid to a "hospitality assistant" without supporting documentation.

Other interesting expenses
Reading through the accountants' report, a few other bills stood out:

  • $13,259 in announcer salary, reimbursed to Medalist Sports
  • $1,957 to rent an inflatable arch from a company in Austin, Texas
  • $51,585 in meals reimbursed to Medalist Sports

It total, $2,274,794 was paid to Tour of Missouri, Inc. in 2008 from public entities, making up a full 70% of its deposits for the year.  This public money came from the Division of Tourism, Department of Agriculture, Missouri Development Finance Board and State of Missouri.  The accountants' report flags an interesting $25,000 of this total from the "State of Missouri" -- it was deposited on November 7, 2008 without supporting documentation, and "coded to Agri Missouri by TOM."

Tour of Missouri - Accountants' Report



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