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New Tricentennial CEO faces sharp questions from city council committee

The man chosen by the City of San Antonio to fix its Tricentennial troubles briefed city council members for the first time Tuesday and faced sharp questioning about contracts and fundraising. Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras just took over Tricentennial planning a week ago, after former CEO Edward Benavides abruptly resigned.

SAN ANTONIO - The man chosen by the City of San Antonio to fix its Tricentennial troubles briefed city council members for the first time Tuesday and faced sharp questioning about contracts and fundraising. Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras just took over Tricentennial planning a week ago, after former CEO Edward Benavides abruptly resigned.

Contreras's report was upbeat until one council member accused him of glossing over recent controversies. Contreras initially made no mention of the man he replaced, Edward Benavides, who ran Tricentennial efforts since 2015.

The News 4 Trouble Shooters and the San Antonio Express News uncovered Benavides negotiated exclusively with one TV station, KSAT, for months to be the Tricentennial’ s official media partner.

Benavides' brother is an executive producer for KSAT.

Benavides also came close to giving a music contract to a company founded by a member of the Tricentennial Commission.

Contreras says he examined all contracts and while he sees nothing illegal, it would have been better if a competitive process had been used to choose all partners.

“I've seen things where we've stumbled perhaps where we could have done differently, perhaps I may have done something differently. I hope that I would have, but I haven't seen anything that frankly should give anyone any concern," Contreras told the Arts and Culture Committee.

But Contreras said an independent, third -party will now be expanding a financial audit to also examine how contracts were awarded.

Councilman Greg Brockhouse said the presentation did not properly address the issues.

“You had private deals going on with the CEO and KSAT, and if it wasn't wrong. why did you then reissue a bid? You have bids that I'm aware to commission members that show up to be voted on. You have a lack of public trust in your process," Brockhouse told Contreras.

Brockhouse also questioned Contreras's claim that they've now raised 87-percent of the funds needed for events, saying not enough details have been provided. Then he again asked about the media contract.

“What would be wrong with canceling the KSAT contract right now? And allowing full coverage for all media outlets? What would be the problem with that? Seeing as how his brother worked at KSAT and there was a lot of behind the scenes dealing uncovered by the media," Brockhouse asked.

At that point one of the city attorneys broke in and said any discussion of altering contracts would have to be done in closed session. That did not happen and Contreras gave no indication he'll be throwing out any previous contracts.

Contreras said the audits of the contracts won't be given to the Tricentennial Commission until January, after Tricentennial events have already begun.

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