Councilman calls for full audit of Tricentennial Commission

(SBG San Antonio photo)

Councilman Greg Brockhouse issued a statement Tuesday calling for a full audit of the Tricentennial Commission.

His call for action comes after Tricentennial Commission CEO Edward Benavides' resignation Monday -- just weeks before the kickoff celebration on New Year's Eve.

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.

Brockhouse sent the following interdepartmental memo Tuesday:

I have become increasingly concerned about the fundraising and operational progress of our 300-year anniversary celebration since I first raised concerns at our initial Committee meeting. The resignation of the Tricentennial CEO was necessary, but much more transparency is needed. For that reason, I am requesting we add to the agenda a discussion to commission an independent review of the following items at the next available Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee meeting:
1. Review of the Organizational structure. Who had organizational control over the Tricentennial CEO? According to City organizational charts, the CEO had reporting duties to the City Manager up to November 13, 2017. However, the Manager contends this is not accurate and supervision was the Commission Chairs responsibility. Accountability is important because it is increasingly obvious the Tricentennial organization lacked basic controls supervising the activities of Mr. Edward Benavides, the former CEO. I believe it is important to understand this Chain of Command to determine the faults in the Tricentennial Commission structure.
2. Review of the number of Request for Proposals (RFP’s) that have received bids from existing or prior Tricentennial Commission Chairs, Board Members, and staff or their family. News and staff briefings indicate at least 2 separate RFP’s or contracts appear to have violated transparency and fairness of a public entity.
3. Consideration of the immediate cancellation of the exclusive coverage contract with KSAT and possible re-issuance of a bidding process for this contract or allow for open media coverage. There are many questions on how KSAT News was contracted as the media vendor and this decision calls for an investigation into how this transpired.
4. Report on the accurate fundraising statistics. Fundraising shortfalls require an explanation, to include reasons for removal of the fundraising contractor and what steps have been implemented to address this issue.
5. Report that identifies all expenditures made by this organization, by category. This information was requested by the Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee, but never delivered to the Members specifications.
We must be completely transparent to the public on the status and future of the Tricentennial. These shortfalls are not the sole responsibility of the CEO. Accountability demands an independent, 3rd party review of all operational and financial processes at the Tricentennial. We must ensure the systemic issues that led to these breakdowns are removed immediately.

District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño issued a statement saying he'd like to give Interim CEO Carlos Contreras a chance to assess the changes made and provide an update within the next week.:

“The Arts, Culture and Heritage City Council Committee is the appropriate venue to receive updates and ask questions about the Tricentennial Commission’s progress in planning the celebration of our City’s 300th Anniversary. As Chairman of the Committee, I believe we should give the Tricentennial Commission and interim leadership the time and opportunity to assess the progress and make any necessary changes. I expect Interim CEO Carlos Contreras – who has been on the job for one day – to provide an update to the Committee next week. I have full confidence in his responsiveness and I will work to ensure he reports to the committee regularly.
Should an audit of the Commission’s finances and operations become necessary, it will not be a part of the Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee’s function; rather, it should appropriately fall under the purview of the Audit Committee.
I challenge my Council colleagues to remain focused on helping to make this undertaking a great success for our community. We have the burden of responsibility to make this moment shine in the history of our city. The Committee will continue the oversight of the Tricentennial effort and will work with the Tricentennial Commission, City Manager, and Mayor on planning and events.”
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