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Chris Jones

Vegas Board Close to Policy Approval

7 October 2005

LAS VEGAS -- The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is one step away from adopting new board policies designed to prevent another dispute such as this year's "What happens here, stays here" ownership controversy.

In addition, several key leaders with the tourism agency could soon take home extra cash based on their job performances during the current fiscal year.

On Thursday, a special committee composed of four authority board members spent more than an hour resolving potential changes to how the room tax-funded agency conducts its daily business.

Most of the discussion involved standardizing practices previously done informally. But the committee also recommended several key changes including maintaining ownership of all intellectual property, and clarifying the duties the authority's legal counsel and president and chief executive officer can conduct without prior board approval.

The committee was formed after this summer's revelation that authority President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter last fall sold the rights to "What happens here, stays here" and another popular marketing slogan to R&R Partners, the Las Vegas-based advertising agency that created the campaigns.

Ralenkotter and R&R officials said the deal was done to bolster both sides' shared legal interests in a continuing lawsuit, though some claimed the sale would unwittingly give away millions of dollars in merchandising revenue to privately owned R&R.

An outside investigation financed by the authority cleared Ralenkotter, his staff, and R&R representatives of any wrongdoing in the deal, but several changes were recommended to prevent similar controversies from recurring. Revised board policies were developed with help from Morrison & Foerster, an international law firm hired by the authority in late June.

Through July alone, the company had billed the authority more than $204,000 for its policy examination, as well as its help in the trademark infringement case against a California woman who sells goods that read, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

The committee's recommendations are subject to board approval when the 14-member body reconvenes at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Cashman Center.

The authority's three-member compensation committee also recommended other changes for full board approval. They include a proposed performance incentive that could award certain employees annual cash bonuses worth 15 percent to 25 percent of their base annual salary.

Mark Olson, the authority's vice president of human resources, said the incentives would serve several purposes. In addition to motivating employees, the promise of merit-based cash incentives could deter key employees from leaving the authority for similar positions.

"Any incentive bonus awarded is based strictly on pay-for-performance criteria of achieving or exceeding specific, measurable goals," he said. "The incentive bonus is paid as cash and does not affect the base salary, thus helping to prevent salary creep, compounding and future (public employees retirement) liability."

Olson also said cash bonuses are not locked in from year to year, which would prevent a worker from repeatedly benefiting from a permanent salary boost.

If approved Tuesday, the authority's president and CEO would be eligible for a cash bonus of up to 25 percent of his or her base salary. Other executive-level workers' bonuses would be capped at 20 percent, while management-level workers would be eligible for bonuses of up to 15 percent.

Vegas Board Close to Policy Approval is republished from