BACVA's embattled chief quits

Armstrong will become board `special consultant'

Also to help find replacement

Change occurs as officials consider critical report

January 24, 2003|By June Arney and Robert Little | June Arney and Robert Little,SUN STAFF

Carroll R. Armstrong, the embattled head of Baltimore's convention and visitors association, announced yesterday that he is resigning after seven years as a leader in the city's efforts to develop a major tourism and convention trade.

The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association said Armstrong will become a "special consultant" to the group's board when he resigns as president and chief executive effective Feb. 1.

The association also named Armstrong to the search committee that will find and select his replacement, making him the panel's first appointee. No interim head was announced.

"In the weeks and months ahead, the city will continue to benefit from Carroll's extensive knowledge and capabilities in marketing Baltimore as a tour and convention site," said Clarence T. Bishop, the association's chairman, in a three-paragraph statement released yesterday.

Neither he nor Armstrong returned calls seeking further comment.

While Armstrong and the association announced the resignation jointly and Bishop offered his "strong appreciation" for Armstrong's service, the change comes at a time when BACVA officials are considering a stinging private assessment of the agency's performance.

The recently completed top-to-bottom review of the association's performance was ordered after articles in The Sun last summer showed that the Baltimore Convention Center's $151 million expansion had not lived up to expectations.

The study has not been made public, but sources familiar with the document say that parts of it cast a critical eye on the association's effectiveness at molding Baltimore into a major tourist destination.

In November, The Sun reported that association officials were seeking a replacement for Armstrong.

Sources close to the convention and visitors association said then that Armstrong's departure was being delayed so the association could craft a "soft landing" that would allow him to step aside with dignity.

William T. Walsh, general manager of the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel and chairman of the association's review and evaluation committee, met with other board members Tuesday in a closed session to discuss Armstrong's performance evaluation. He said the meeting offered no clues that a resignation was imminent.

"In my opinion [Armstrong's resignation] had nothing to do with the meeting," said Walsh, who added: "I enjoyed working with Carroll. I thought he was fun to work with. I have nothing but best wishes for the guy."

The statement released yesterday offered few details about Armstrong's future, other than his willingness to serve as a consultant.

In the statement, Bishop indicated that he will quickly appoint a search committee to find a new president and CEO. The committee will include representatives from the association's board of directors, its staff and from the local industry.

Association officials are not releasing the financial terms of Armstong's contract, which was to end in 2005, or the financial arrangement for his consulting duties. As of July, Armstrong's salary was $180,000, according to association officials.

"The board will put a qualified interim CEO in place as soon as possible," said Nancy Hinds, a spokeswoman for the association. "They are very aware that time is of the essence."

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