March 31, 2004

The expansion of the Colorado Convention Center in Denver reached the 80 percent completion mark last week with a topping-out ceremony. The enlarged facility is scheduled to open Dec. 6, with 584,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, 100,000 square feet of meeting space, two ballrooms of 50,000 and 35,000 square feet, respectively, and a 5,000-seat lecture hall. According to the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, twice as many events are on the books as have ever been scheduled before, and the average convention size has grown by more than 2,000 delegates.

A 119-page independent investigator's report released Tuesday charges that attorney Steve Catron, who for a decade ran operations at the city-owned Sloan Convention Center in Bowling Green, Ky., improperly billed the center for $298,445. The taxpayer-funded report also states, "Catron apparently paid his firm's escrow account an additional $247,743 from the Convention Center Corporation's operating account, for which he cannot currently account." Investigators Tachau, Maddox, Hovious & Dickens PLC fault Catron for overcharges, vague record-keeping and inappropriate expenditures. Since early 2003, when allegations of impropriety first surfaced, the city of Bowling Green has abolished the center's old board of directors, led by Catron, and assumed control of day-to-day operations while a citizen task force examines spending. Meanwhile, according to the report, Catron has "candidly agreed that he should not have charged the CCC for certain significant increments of time."