Tricentennial CEO resigns after media contract questioned
The man who is in charge of organizing San Antonio's big 300th birthday celebration resigned Monday.
Edward Benavides' stunning announcement comes two weeks after a News 4 Trouble Shooter Investigation into the Tricentennial Commission.
The commission has had trouble raising funds and booking musical talent. But our investigation focused on irregularities with the way Benavides and the commission awarded a lucrative contract.
Internal emails we obtained through an open records request showed Benavides and his staff met and negotiated exclusively with officials from KSAT TV to be the official media sponsor of the Tricentennial.
That was different from the usual competitive process used to choose other sponsorship contracts. RFP's or "Requests for Proposals" are usually issued so the commission can pick the best deal from multiple bidders.
In his original report, News 4 Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila asked Benavides if his team chose KSAT because of a family connection.
“Who is Brandon Benavides?” Avila asked.
“Brandon is my brother, and works at KSAT, he's an overnight producer, I had already advised the commission at the time and the City of San Antonio's legal department of this," Benavides answered.
Benavides denied his brother was the reason his team exchanged proposals with KSAT for months before other TV stations were notified of a media partnership.
“One of the staff members that was with the team was responsible for that stewardship and that outreach process. It wasn't a decision made by me alone," Benavides said.
Only after WOAI TV complained did Benavides and the commission go back and open up the competition to other stations. However, those stations were only given days to put together proposals and 15 minutes to present their offers to commission members, who ended up selecting KSAT again.
An editorial in Friday's San Antonio Express News stated the way the selection was handled "smacked of favoritism".
Then Monday morning the city and the Tricentennial Commission announced Benavides was stepping down. They would not agree to an interview explaining why,
Benavides himself issued a written statement saying: “Our 300th anniversary should imbue joy, aspiration and legacy, not the negativity that currently surrounds the communitywide planning. For these reasons I have resigned as CEO of the commission."
“This is long overdue," said District 6 City Councilman Greg Brockhouse, who sits on the Arts and Culture Committee.
Brockhouse says City Manager Sheryl Sculley bears responsibility because she appointed Benavides to the commission and is his direct supervisor.
“My question would be directly to the city manager, that's your direct report, Edward Benavides. How did you not notice that there are these types of problems within the organization? Why wasn't this ratcheted up quicker?" Brockhouse said.
Sculley released a statement saying she is grateful for the job Benavides did with the Tricentennial and he will be reassigned to another city position. Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras will take over until a permanent CEO can be found. We are now just a month and a half from the start of Tricentennial events.