|By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 21, 2005 - Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Vice President Carey Rountree is leaving the agency, but officials insist it has nothing to do with the recent loss of the city's biggest convention.
Rountree, who has been with the bureau since 1992, has been in discussions about other jobs and wanted to go public about his desire to move on, said Bill Howard, the ACVB's vice president of marketing, communications and tourism.
Howard said Rountree wanted to avoid speculation that he was being forced out because of the loss of the 100,000-plus-attendee National Association of Home Builders meeting.
"He and (ACVB President Spurgeon Richardson) have had some conversations over the last few years about things he also wanted to do," Howard said. "(Rountree) has had some interest from employers, so that's why they decided to go public before rumors started."
Howard said he did not know what jobs Rountree has interviewed for or whether they are in the hospitality industry. Rountree, who on Friday told the ACVB he planned to leave, was unavailable for comment Monday.
A date has not been set for his departure.
Rountree was one of two supervisors at the bureau who gave a former staffer permission to send an e-mail in late February that later was cited as a contributor to the loss of the home builders convention.
The gathering had been scheduled at the downtown Georgia World Congress Center in 2007 and 2008. The meeting was projected to bring in $119 million in direct spending in each of those years.
ACVB board member Bob Hope said he initially thought Rountree was being removed because of the homebuilders' departure. "I thought it could just be regrettable timing, but it looks awfully suspicious," Hope said.
He said he later talked with Richardson, who assured him that Rountree had made the choice to leave.
According to a recent report on the circumstances surrounding the NAHB pullout, Bob Schuler, an ACVB vice president of sales, said he, Rountree and the staffer who eventually sent the e-mail were discussing the home builders association's concerns about a $20 room fee its representatives had noticed while checking accommodations for the convention. The staffer proposed sending an e-mail about the issue to the hotels the NAHB representatives had not yet visited.
The staffer then sent the e-mail, which at one point advised hotel operators to hold firm on the fee.
Schuler said he and Rountree consented to an e-mail but did not talk specifically about its contents, according to the report from Atlanta law firm Alston & Bird, which the ACVB hired to review circumstances surrounding the home builders' departure. The bureau released the report earlier this month.
The e-mail ignited a fire that -- combined with issues over hotel accommodations and GWCC's size limitations -- ended in the home builders announcing in April that the group would leave. It hasn't determined a final destination for its 2007 and 2008 meetings. Donna Reichle , spokeswoman for the home builders, said Orlando and Las Vegas are top contenders. Hope said Rountree will be missed. But changes at the organization might be helpful, he said.
"This thing happening now is shaking the tree in a number of different directions," he said of fallout over the loss of the homebuilders show. "Whenever you have a crisis, you have to feel some pain to get some gain."
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