Deputy City Manager Violated Ethics Code, Didn’t Benefit Personally, Ethics Board Rules

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Iris Dimmick

After spending only 30 minutes behind closed doors Tuesday night, The City of San Antonio’s Ethics Review Board found Pat DiGiovanni, deputy city manager, in violation of the conflict of interest section of the City’s Ethics Code (section 2-43) by creating an appearance of impropriety, while also ruling that he did not violate other key sections of the code by either personally benefitting from his actions or by seeking conflicting outside employment.

DiGiovanni recently resigned his deputy manager post, effective the end of December, to become CEO of Centro Partnership, a non-profit, private-public downtown development enterprise. Centro’s executive committee is made up of high-profile business executives and city officials, including David Zachry, the CEO of Zachry Construction Corp., half  of the  Hunt-Zachry partnership that won the contract for the $325 million Convention Center expansion contract.

Pat DiGiovanni takes questions from the Ethics Review Board late Tuesday evening. Photos by Jacob Burris.

Zachry serves as the Centro board’s vice chair and was a member of the four-person team that selected DiGiovanni as its top candidate and negotiated his employment contract about one month before the bid review committee concluded its work. A later review of the committee’s work showed that Hunt-Zachry would have won by an even  higher margin had DiGiovanni recused himself from the process.

Tuesday the ethics board stated that there was no evidence of any quid pro quo or influence peddling, but also chided DiGiovanni for not recusing himself from the eight-person bid review committee while pursuing new employment that involved an individual associated with a bid submission.

The board found no violation of other sections of code in question (2-48: conflicting outside employment and 2-44: unfair advancement of private interest).

Ethics Review Board Chair Art Downey, and Vice Chair Michael Ariens, stressed that they did not find any evidence that supported any actual impropriety, just that proper steps were not taken to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“DiGiovanni should have recused himself,” Adrien said, “But we’re not indicating that there was impropriety.”

Art Downey (right), Ethics Review Board chair and retired colonel U.S. Army, explains that no punishment or sanctions will (or could) be enforced in this situation.

DiGiovanni, who is the first city official to call for a review of his own actions, made an opening statement to the board that expressed remorse.

“I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not perfect,” DiGiovanni said, “But I missed this.”

Michael Ariens (center), Ethics Review Board vice chair and law professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law, asks questions about when DiGiovanni (left) was approached for a position at Centro Partnership.

DiGiovanni was officially offered the position at Centro Partnership by executive board chairman Don Frost in July.  DiGiovanni accepted a job offer at Centro about a month prior to sitting on the committee, a point Centro board members cited as evidence there was no quid pro quo.

Ultimately the ethics review board found there was no intent to trade favors between DiGiovanni and Zachry Construction Corp., although the timing of the events raised concerns. Most of the board’s questions to DiGiovanni and to Michael Frisbie, director of the Capital Improvements Management Services Department which oversees contract committees, focused on the timeliness and attendance of DiGiovanni’s interactions with Zachry.

DiGiovanni left the proceeding before the board emerged with its ruling to attend his rehearsal dinner. He is getting married on Friday.

New to the Rivard Report and San Antonio, Iris Dimmick graduated from Central Washington University with a B.A. in journalism with an emphasis on online media and energy studies. Iris currently works as editor, reporter, photographer, and assistant web editor for the Rivard Report. You can follow her on Twitter @viviris

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