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LOS ANGELES-The chairman of the Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is trying to downplay reports that his agency has inflated its hotel-booking figures by about 10%.

GlobeSt.com reported Friday that preliminary findings of an outside audit found that the bureau’s original report of 384,000 room bookings may have been inflated by as many as 40,000 rooms. The exaggerated figures apparently allowed 10 sales people to collect $23,000 in unwarranted bonuses, the audit indicates.

Developers of hotels and other tourist-dependent real estate projects often use convention and visitor bureau figures when determining how large their projects should be, or whether they should build at all.

In a one-page, prepared statement released Friday, Bureau Chairman George Medak acknowledged that the agency has had some accounting problems but that they “appear to be relatively minor and correctable.”

Medak’s statement called the $23,000 in wrongful payouts “unacceptable.” But he added that they “must be viewed in perspective to the overall magnitude of the Convention Bureau operation that is well in excess of $4 million.”

The bureau itself ordered the outside audit after noticing some discrepancies. Final results of the audit, which is being prepared by accounting giant Ernst & Young, are expected to be released in a few days.

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