Morrow suing company hired to run city’s convention, tourism business

The city of Morrow is suing an Atlanta-based marketing company hired to run the south metro community's convention and tourism business in a dispute that involves thousands in tax dollars.

In the lawsuit filed in Fulton Superior Court, Morrow accused Civentum Inc, of failing to provide a record of expenses or revenue related to the Morrow Center — the city’s convention facility — or how much the marketing firm has collected in hotel/motel taxes since becoming the manager of the city’s tourism business last August.

“These funds are not Civentum’s property, and Civentum has no right to deny the citizens government access to accounts and information regarding the people’s money,” the city wrote in a letter to the company. “Civentum’s continued refusal to provide this access has now caused the city to fear for the security of public funds.”

Attorneys and an executive with Civentum could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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The issue comes as Morrow, home to Southlake Mall and the ill-fated Olde Towne Morrow, has tried to jump start its reputation as a destination for meetings and events. The Clayton city hoped Civentum could promote such assets as performing arts venue Spivey Hall, the National and State Archives and 1.5 miles of trails.

Civentum’s Facebook page shows the company promoting various Morrow events dating back to 2016 when it said it was given a prior contract to market the city.

The city's August 2018 contract with the firm required it to provide quarterly updates to city leaders on the health of Morrow's convention and tourism business, but no information has been provided since the agreement was struck, the city said in the lawsuit.

Morrow fired Civentum earlier in the year, according to the lawsuit, and both parties agreed to turn operations of the convention and tourism centers back over to Morrow.

The city does not appear to know how much tax money Civentum held in its account. Morrow said in the lawsuit filed April 11 that its efforts to get a full accounting of the hotel/motel tax collections and other funds were consistently rebuffed by the company and that the marketing firm also refused to give Morrow access to a Fidelity Bank account where the money was stored.

“The city has requested Civentum provide a complete accounting of public funds, namely the hotel-motel tax proceeds collected by Civentum since December 2018,” Morrow attorney John O’Neal said in an April letter to the firm.

“On no less than three occasions in writing, has the city requested a full accounting of hotel-motel tax funds remitted to Civentum,” he said.