Board members of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau on Wednesday stood behind their embattled CEO in the wake of an extensive news report detailing mounting accusations that he recklessly spent city money and mistreated staff.

At its meeting Wednesday, the board’s chief financial officer, Larry Jackson, spoke during the public comment period, criticizing the Long Beach Post for reporting the allegations and praising CEO Steve Goodling for leading “an ethical organization.”

Jackson was responding to a Sept. 11 article that relied on hundreds of pages of public records and more than a dozen sources to detail accusations that Goodling has, among other things, spent city money on a $40,000 cake presented at an invite-only party, demeaned staff members, used public funds to buy gifts for city officials, and monitored his employees’ emails to hunt for critics within his organization.

Additionally, Goodling is facing a wrongful termination lawsuit that accuses him of conspiring to fire the Long Beach Convention Center’s finance director when he complained about Goodling spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds at a Newport Beach consignment store and elsewhere to buy furniture and fixtures for the Convention Center without documenting whether much of it was ever delivered or needed.

In July, Goodling was also confronted by an anonymous letter sent to Long Beach City Hall accusing him of spending public money on gifts for his friends and city officials while also being “a bully who intimidates and dehumanizes people” at the Visitors Bureau and Convention Center.

The whistleblower also said Goodling’s behavior contributed to the recent resignation of two top executives at the bureau.

In his comments, Jackson acknowledged as true some of what the Post reported: that the bureau has spent large sums of public money on private events attended by city officials and other influential figures in Long Beach.

Jackson feigned shock at the revelation, comparing himself to the French Captain Louis Renault in “Casablanca” who claims to be outraged about gambling going on in the nightclub that’s central to the movie’s plot before turning around and collecting his winnings.

“So I’m not really shocked,” Jackson said, explaining that he was sad and angry at the Post for not including “the nearly $70,000 that we spent on the invitation-only, over the top, extremely positive event for the unveiling and naming of the Fairmont Breakers Hotel, which happens to be owned by the people that own the Long Beach Post.”

The Long Beach Post and Breakers Hotel are owned by separate companies. Local businessman John Molina is the primary investor in both companies, but they operate separately, and Molina has no editorial control at the Post.

The Post did not have details of the Breakers event before publication, but Jackson alleged the omission could have been motivated by a conflict of interest.

“Shame on you, Long Beach Post,” he said before ending his remarks and being met by applause from his fellow board members.

At Wednesday’s meeting, three Visitors Bureau staff members also addressed the board, praising Goodling for characteristics such as his “visionary approach and inspiring leadership” that have “led us to new heights.”

They also said they disagreed with the portrayal of Goodling from more than a dozen former employees and colleagues who spoke with the Post.

“I’ve never seen him humiliate, raise his voice, or even get angry with anyone,” said sales director Shannon White, who added that she did not recognize the picture of Goodling portrayed in the anonymous letter sent to City Hall.

After receiving the “whistleblower” letter, City Manager Tom Modica deferred any investigation into its accusations to the Visitors Bureau’s board.

Jackson and board chairman Imran Ahmed were tasked with leading that review on Sept. 5 and soon began contacting current and former employees, but several of them have declined to participate in that process because of a perception that Jackson and Ahmed are intent on protecting Goodling, according to two people familiar with the process.

When asked after the meeting whether the review of the letter was continuing, Jackson, who supported Goodling during the meeting, shrugged and walked away.

Jeremiah Dobruck is managing editor of the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @jeremiahdobruck on Twitter.