The American Society of Association Executives plans to move its annual meeting, scheduled for Los Angeles in 2005, and is now soliciting bids from five U.S. cities in the East and "mid-East" to host that convention, says Michael S. Olson, CAE, president and CEO of ASAE. Last Friday, Olson told LA Inc., the Convention & Visitors Bureau, that ASAE would like to reschedule for 2010.

The reasons for the change are varied, said Olson. Threats of sizable cuts in the L.A. convention bureau budget as well as the city's budget were one factor, said Olson, as was the fact that ASAE decided to flip-flop the sites for its '04 and '05 winter management meetings (held each December). "The '05 meeting is now scheduled for Chicago ['04 in DC], meaning that our two primary meetings in '05 would have been in the Midwest and West. We needed a location more central to the core of our members," he says.

"No contracts have been violated," says Olson, because there were no contracts yet in place. "We had a letter of agreement with LA Inc., the Convention and Visitors Bureau, to hold those dates at the convention center and hotels." ASAE typically does not sign contracts with hotels and centers until 24 months out. "We would be negotiating this summer and fall before signing a contract." Olson adds that pulling out from the letter of agreement "might have been more of a problem had we not given the intention of coming back. Whether or not it was binding would need a legal interpretation.

"There were no contingencies in the letter, no contract violations on anyone's part," continues Olson. "Hopefully, at a later date, the city will be able to showcase itself, have a completed sports and entertainment complex, as well as more hotels. Right now they're talking about cutting police, fire, and the bureau's budget. Hosting ASAE is a big financial commitment: It's between $2.5 and $3 million in expenditures for a host city to support us. L.A. is facing budget deficits, and we felt we were being a burden. We decided to reschedule for the first available year that made sense."

Bill Buckley, executive vice president of sales, LA Inc., says that ASAE signed a commitment letter initially in March of 2001. In the summer of 2001, the CVB changed the way it defined confirmed bookings and instituted a much more strongly worded standard letter of agreement with meeting planners. "We went through the process of asking our customers to recommit, and ASAE did, in October of 2002," says Buckley.

"The members of ASAE are vital to L.A., and George Kirkland [president and CEO of the bureau] is a past chair," continues Buckley. "We've been fortunate to have some of their smaller meetings, and we do not want to jeopardize that relationship. So it behooves us to work with ASAE to reschedule."

He adds that no decision has been made to cut the bureau's budget, and that, if ASAE had decided to come in '05, the financial commitments from the bureau and city would have been met.