SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio’s 300th birthday party is losing its luster as Tricentennial CEO Edward Benavides abruptly resigned under a cloud of ethical questions.
City Councilman Greg Brockhouse on Tuesday called for an immediate and independent review of the Tricentennial Commission, its oversight, contracting, and fundraising efforts.
Benavides came under fire over an exclusive media partnership with TV station KSAT, a deal worked out months before the commission issued a request for proposals. Benavides’ brother, Brandon, is an executive producer for KSATs “Good Morning San Antonio.”
The partnership deal — along with an ambitious $50 million budget pitched by Benavides and his staff — raised red flags over the commission’s operation. The funding goal has since been scaled back to $10.1 million, amid questions about the Tricentennial Commission’s stewardship of the year-long birthday party set to begin Jan. 1.
Carlos Contreras, one of San Antonio’s four assistant city managers, was named interim CEO. Earlier this year, Contreras oversaw another controversial and politically charged project — screened proposals for the city’s lucrative river-barge contract.
Benavides’ base salary at the commission was $167,763. He previously was paid $132,804 as City Manager Sheryl Sculley’s chief of staff. Contreras’ compensation was not disclosed.
“It is increasingly obvious the Tricentennial organization lacked basic controls supervising the activities of Mr. Benavides,” Brockhouse stated in a memo.
The councilman requested an independent audit to review Tricentennial proposals “that have received bids from existing or prior commission chairs, board members and staff or family.”
“News and staff briefings indicate at least two separate RFPs or contracts appear to have violated transparency and fairness of a public entity,” he said.
The city said Benavides will be reassigned to another position.
While Mayor Ron Nirenberg praised Benavides as “a valuable asset to the city,” calls to tighten San Antonio’s ethics codes continue.
San Antonio Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff noted last summer that three council members were defeated after they were embroiled in separate “ethics-related scandals.”