Palm Beach County quashes talk of using notoriety in tourism ads

Beautiful beaches, balmy weather and Bernard Madoff — welcome to Palm Beach County.

Last week, the county’s Tourism Development Council batted around the idea of whether the national coverage of the Madoff financial scandal, and his Palm Beach ties, could indirectly bolster magazine ad campaigns that sell the area as a playground for the rich.

On Wednesday, County Commissioner Burt Aaronson sought to put an end to even considering advertising efforts that would seek to benefit from the media glare of “corruption cases associated with Palm Beach County.”

In addition to enduring the Madoff scandal, Palm Beach County this month had a third county commissioner in three years resign amid a federal corruption investigation.

The county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau should focus on spreading “a positive view of the county,” Aaronson wrote in e-mail sent to the bureau Wednesday.

“I trust that the Convention and Visitors Bureau will dismiss any thought of further publicizing persons or actions of a negative nature in attempting to attract tourists here,” he wrote.

Bureau representatives said Wednesday that no corruption-themed ads were planned and that the discussion last week was focused on whether national news about the scandal affected the county’s tourism efforts.

“There has never been any plan nor intention … to develop messaging or promotional efforts based on cases of crime or corruption,” Jorge Pesquera, bureau president and chief executive officer wrote in an e-mail Wednesday to Aaronson. “Mr. Madoff’s actions have been a tragedy for many and have no place in tourism promotion.”

Madoff, a once highly sought-after financier, faces charges of running a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of as much as $50 billion. Many of the investors who lost money live part of the year in Palm Beach.