Riverton Cuts Ties With Chamber Of Commerce Over Bungled Money

The Riverton City Council voted Tuesday to strip the Riverton Chamber of Commerce of its duty to distribute lodging tax money after the chamber reportedly overdrew its bank account by thousands of dollars. 

Clair McFarland

March 21, 20247 min read

Riverton Chamber of Commerce via Facebook.
Riverton Chamber of Commerce via Facebook. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

RIVERTON — After Riverton’s Chamber of Commerce reportedly overdrew its bank account by thousands of dollars and used $1,800 in public money to cover the shortage, the Riverton City Council barred the chamber Tuesday from managing the tax money.

The city’s decision also came after the chamber dismissed its director, Tiffany Cortez, who said she was fired after rebuking the chamber’s executive board over the bungled handling of funds.

“It seemed very shady,” Cortez told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

While some community members called the chamber’s workings dubious, others, including Riverton Mayor Tim Hancock, said the chamber has been struggling with financial difficulties for some time, and now needs to re-focus on balancing its own money without the added responsibility of managing tax dollars.

Hancock noted in a Thursday interview, as others did at the city council meeting, that the chamber was allowed to use the tourism asset development (TAD) funds for its operations, but had to request prior permission from the city council under the terms of a March 2023 agreement.

The chamber did not get prior permission.

“The problem is it was done without asking, in violation of the agreement,” said Hancock. “We need to have very careful compliance with our agreement when it comes to taxpayer dollars.”

The Riverton Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary organization meant to promote the town’s businesses using business-owner dues.

But it was also in charge of allocating TAD money gleaned from Fremont County’s lodging tax for at least 10 years, Hancock said.

That ended Tuesday night after a unanimous vote of the Riverton City Council to discontinue its delegation of tax money to the chamber. 

The chamber still can apply for tourism asset development grants like any other group or business.

The Bitter End

Cortez said she was not privy to the excess expenditures while they were happening.

She said she learned via a Feb. 28 email that the chamber’s general operating account was about to be overdrawn by $2,013.71, according to a screenshot of an email between chamber board Vice-President Julie Buller, Cortez and others.

Cortez sent the screenshot to Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. She also read aloud from it at a contentious Riverton City Council meeting Tuesday, where her husband called the chamber “Machiavellian” and others called for its dissolution.

That amount did not include Cortez’s month-end payroll check, which would put the chamber another $1,483.76 in the hole; or her assistant’s payroll check, which comprised another $958.62, the screenshot says.

Payroll taxes of $1,374.76 also were due by March 15, bringing the total projected overdraft to $5,830.85, says the screenshot.

But the operating account already owed money to the taxpayers’ TAD account, which the chamber kept separate from the operating account.

“Keeping in mind that we just advanced $1,800 from TAD last week to cover our overdraft in our operating account, which brings the new total to $7,630.85,” the screenshot says.

The chamber’s treasurer was asking a local business to give its $3,000 membership check early “to put a band-aid on our situation,” the screenshot says.

Buller did not give comment by publication time Thursday following a Cowboy State Daily phone call and email.

No Confidence

Cortez sent a letter to the chamber’s general board expressing “no confidence” in the executive board, she said in her interview.

“They told me they weren’t going to remove any of the members of the board, and they took my letter as a letter of resignation,” she said.

Cortez countered that she was not resigning. The chamber fired her March 1, she said.

Chamber board President James Bunker did not respond by publication time Thursday to a message left on the chamber’s general voicemail line.

Cortez had been with the chamber since October 2023, and is the chamber’s fifth of five successive directors in the past five years.

‘Financial Review’

Also on Feb. 28, the City Council launched a financial review into the chamber’s use of public money.

The TAD funds are meant to run tourism-related programs and promotions to attract visitors to Riverton.

The financial review committee found a $6,630.33 payment to a website it categorized as “recipient not verified.”

The committee identified a few inconsistencies in its summary of chamber finances. For example:

·         The chamber’s reconciliation report for the period ending September 2023 reflected a closing book balance of $15,004.68. But the opening balance on the October 2023 bank reconciliation was $8,004.68, the summary says.

·         The reconciliation report showed a total of negative $10,005 in cleared checks and transfers, but the bank statement showed negative $17,005 in cleared checks and transfers, says the review committee’s summary.

·         The summary says the closing book balance at November’s end was $9,634.18, but the December opening balance was negative $365.82.

·         Totals for cleared checks and transfers once again showed differences between the number given on the reconciliation report and the number shown on the bank statement: with negative $6,671.68 on page one of the reconciliation report but a deeper figure of negative $16,671.68 on the detailed listing and bank statement, says the summary.

·         The summary says the reconciliation report showed a total of negative $5 in cleared checks and transfers at the end of January, but the bank statement showed negative $2,505 in checks and charges.


Helen Wilson, executive director of the Wind River Visitor’s Council, called the discrepancies concerning when she spoke Tuesday at the City Council meeting.

The Wind River Visitor’s Council funnels a portion of the lodging tax dollars into local communities, which then allocate them uniquely to attract visitors to the area.

“Looking at the review and then looking at the reports we’ve received from the chamber – some of them don’t add up,” said Wilson. “I can’t even speculate on what the issue is, but the numbers don’t match and that’s a concern for us.”

Some checks were not legible. Some spending documents didn’t match the actual expenses.

One check for $6,249.99 had no corroborating number on the expense report, said Wilson.

The Struggle

Council member Lindsey Cox made a motion to cancel the council’s agreement with the chamber and designate a new entity for distributing TAD money.

The entire council and mayor agreed via unanimous vote. 

While the chamber is no longer the right entity to manage public money, Riverton’s mayor doesn’t suspect its officers of fraud, he told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

“I don’t think anything untoward happened with this. It just was that they were struggling, and they used what money they had available – the TAD funds – to get themselves back in the black,” said Hancock.

He also referenced the chamber's years of turnover and turmoil. 

The city is not organizing a deeper audit, Hancock said. The city's concern has been with the use of the TAD money, not the chamber's voluntary membership dues, he added. 

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter