The Conroe Convention and Visitors Bureau has been left vacant after former Manager Shannon Overby was fired in April and its three other employees were fired or stepped down.

Public Information Officer Andrew Yousse said in an April 18 email the city intends on filling the vacant role left by Overby, and the communications team is maintaining the visitors bureau’s marketing efforts in the interim.

“The city intends to fill the CVB manager position soon. We have already posted this open position and are actively seeking qualified individuals,” Yousse said.

The Conroe Convention and Visitors Bureau, also known as Visit Conroe, serves the city’s visitors with information about the area.

Overby, who said she was terminated April 5 by Collin Boothe—the director of finance and assistant city administrator—worked for the department for nearly six years.

During an April 12 City Council workshop, Council Member Marsha Porter said she denies any harassment toward Overby and claimed Overby was terminated due to a negative attitude.

Overby filed a harassment complaint to the Director of Human Resources Andre Houser on March 20, which Community Impact obtained, claiming Porter had a "target" on Overby and wanted her position terminated. Overby said HR responded that she was not a part of a protected class—protected classes include age, gender or disability—and found no harassment, therefore, by Porter.

In the HR complaint, Overby alleges previous city employees informed her Porter wanted to terminate her position. However, Porter denied these claims April 12. In an April 17 email to Community Impact, Porter said she has had no contact with Overby directly.

Following her termination, Overby claimed another staff member was terminated, and the two others in the department resigned and were relieved of responsibilities the same day.

“If one council member can change the entire business plan for a successful department ... what’s to keep [Porter] from eliminating the entire staff?” Overby said. “It’s come to one person without discussion and none of the other council members knew about it.”

Mayor Jody Czajkoski and Stephen Naleway, chairperson of the Tourism Advisory Council, declined to comment.

In the April 17 email, Porter said she was unaware Overby was going to be terminated until she received an email from Boothe to the council members.

“The correct procedure would have been an email or letter describing that [Overby] should be terminated along with the documentation describing the reasons why,” Porter said. “No such documentation [exists]. No phone calls were made on her termination.”

Boothe declined to comment on Overby’s termination.

Before her termination, Overby said the offices of the visitors bureau were moved in April from the fifth floor of City Hall to the first floor. Overby claims the visitors bureau staff was unable to complete their jobs effectively due to being given the new responsibility of greeting guests who enter City Hall. Overby claims in the two weeks the bureau operated from the first floor, the staff greeted over 700 people, causing the bureau not to be able to focus on its own responsibilities.

“It wasn’t just about us being disgruntled employees; we really could just not do our job,” Overby said.

However, Boothe said the city's intent is for the first floor of City Hall to serve as the visitor’s center going forward with design and construction pending to remodel the first floor. The city previously discussed plans for the 14,000-square-foot first floor in February 2022, with one idea being a visitor’s center with a gift shop, according to previous reporting.

According to the HR complaint filed by Overby, the visitors bureau is funded through hotel occupancy tax revenue, and Overby claims that by moving the department to act as receptionist for the city, HOT funds were misused.

To comply with HOT funding, Overby claims Boothe and City Administrator Gary Scott said in an email they backdated the salary of two of the visitor bureau’s staff to be paid through the general fund instead.

Community Impact has submitted a public information request to obtain the emails.

As such, during the April 12 meeting, Porter said an audit of the HOT fund is ongoing.

However, Boothe said in an April 17 email to Community Impact the city began a weekly transfer of general fund dollars to the HOT fund March 30 to allocate and reimburse a portion of the cost of two CVB staff members to account for the possibility of nontourist visitors to City Hall. Boothe said 50% of the costs were allocated and reimbursed from the general fund based on an average hourly rate of salaries and benefits of two CVB staff members.

“We are committed to being open and transparent with tax dollars and believe that this was the best way to remove all doubt,” Boothe said.