Palm Beach taps new tourism director

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The Palm Beach County Convention & Visitors Bureau has tapped travel industry veteran Jorge Pesquera to serve as president and CEO, closing what has been an embarrassing, tumultuous chapter for the organization.

Pesquera, who will take office on Nov. 1, is president and CEO of the Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association, a position he held during the maelstrom of media attention on the island following the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway in 2005. He was previously president and CEO of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau.

Pesquera will succeed Jim Stuber, who has been serving as the bureau's interim administrative director. Stuber, the CVB's outside legal counsel, was brought in after it was discovered late last year that the bureau's former controller, Donna Duffer, had embezzled nearly $1.5 million over a three-year period.

That revelation led to the forced resignations of the bureau's longtime president, Warren "Mac" McLaughlin, Duffer and Lee Davis, the vice president of finance.

An audit later found "gross mismanagement" at the bureau, which has an annual operating budget of $10 million.

The resulting political fire storm led some local lawmakers to recommend that Palm Beach County sever ties with Discover Palm Beach County, the nonprofit company that operates as the CVB. The county ultimately decided against it.

The bureau is responsible for promoting the county's $2.8 billion tourism industry, which generates $22.5 million in bed tax revenue and $623 million in lodging sales each year.

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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