Crookston Chamber executive director resigns post
CROOKSTON—Three weeks after she was cleared of any wrongdoing in a budgeting dispute and resigning the post she held for nearly three years, the executive director of the Crookston Area Chamber and Visitors Bureau believes she is leaving both organizations in good shape.
Amanda Lien said Tuesday she is proud of what the organizations have accomplished under her leadership, and she will continue to be a strong advocate for the city even as she pursues a master's degree in business administration.
"I'm very, very sad to be leaving the Chamber. This is what I came back (from overseas) to do, to be a part of the Crookston community again, and I've been grateful to be able to do that for the past three years," Lien said. "We've set a lot of goals, and I think we have accomplished many of them. I would love to continue to be in this role and work toward them with partners, but I'm going to try to equip myself with further education and, hopefully, be able to share that with the community down the line."
Lien said the city is poised for future success because of the work of many community partners.
"We're helping develop more leaders in Crookston through networking and educational opportunities for entrepreneurs and professionals at the start of their careers," she said. "We've really focused on downtown development, and we've done a lot of quality-of-life events to get people using our assets and public spaces to celebrate what we have around us."
Lien said her decision to pursue graduate school at this time was not based on the recent controversy over how she divvied lodging tax revenue between the organizations she oversaw.
"It's unfortunate it had to happen at the same time, but pursuing my master's always has been on my horizon," she said. "I hope it doesn't affect the future of the Chamber and CVB. It's a good partnership and they work together really well. There are a lot of good projects in the works that I hope continue to keep moving forward and not become stagnated."
City Finance Director Angel Weasner said an independent review of Lien's budgeting found no wrongdoing.
"She was not misappropriating funds, and that was directly out of the attorney's letter," Weasner said. "What happened was for budgetary purposes, in trying to save money on both sides, it was better to transfer a percentage rather than itemized expenses."
Weasner said that resulted in 20 percent of the appropriated lodging taxes going toward Chamber administrative costs and 75 percent toward the CVB rather than the 15/80 percent break stipulated by an earlier City Council agreement.
Weasner said Lien twice sought an update to the language of the agreement but that did not happen. Despite the belief by some the CVB was shorted money, Weasner said Lien actually saved the organization $7,000. That was the amount the CVB once allocated for an event coordinator position it eliminated. That role was absorbed by the Chamber, which didn't charge it back to the CVB.
It was an unfortunate misunderstanding Weasner said, but both she and Lien said some positive changes resulted. City Council members who serve on both boards of directors now will give regular reports to the council to ensure better communication.
Weasner praised Lien for her work on behalf of the city.
"She has done a great job keeping abreast of the downtown groups. She has done wonderful things for the city," Weasner said.
Lien's resignation is effective Jan. 16, when she will begin a two-year master's program at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. The program, which focuses on leadership and change management, involves both on-campus and online work, allowing Lien to remain in Crookston. She said she will be available to help during the transition.
"The boards want to get back to 2018 goals moving into the new year with better understanding and communication, but I'm here for any assistance as we go forward," Lien said. "I'm involved in current things in the community, and I'm going to continue to be a part of those things that are near and dear to my heart. I really can't say what will happen down the road, but I always will be a voice for the importance of the Chamber."