Tricentennial CEO Edward Benavides Resigns

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Tricentennial Commision CEO Edward Benavides gives an interview following the event held at The Tobin Center. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Former Tricentennial Commission CEO Edward Benavides.

Tricentennial Commission CEO Edward Benavides resigned from his position Monday, less than seven weeks before San Antonio kicks off the yearlong celebration of its 300th birthday.

Benavides, former chief of staff for the city manager, served as acting director of the Tricentennial Office before his appointment as chief executive officer in December 2015. Benavides’ resignation is effective immediately and comes about five months after Asia Ciaravino, the Tricentennial Commission’s chief operating officer, resigned.

Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras will lead the organization tasked with planning, promoting, and coordinating the city’s 300th anniversary as interim CEO “until a permanent replacement is approved by the commission,” City Manager Sheryl Sculley stated in a memo to City Council.

“Our 300th anniversary should imbue joy, aspiration and legacy, not the negativity that currently surrounds the community wide planning,” Benavides stated in a press release. “For these reasons I have resigned as CEO of the Commission.”

“Edward has been a valuable asset to the City of San Antonio, and will be reassigned within the City organization,” Sculley stated in an email. “I’m grateful for the passion and commitment he gave to the Tricentennial effort, and there is no question that the year-long celebration will be a great success and source of pride for our community.”

But some, including City Council members, have questioned the organization and its fundraising abilities.

During a Council committee meeting about Tricentennial planning in August, members pressed Benavides and fundraising consultant Kathleen Doria for specific numbers regarding budget and fundraising efforts.

Doria’s contract with the commission was not renewed last month, and those documents have yet to be provided, Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) told the Rivard Report on Monday.

Instead of a robust report at the following meeting, “We got a marketing, promotional brochure,” Brockhouse said.

The Tricentennial Commission leadership’s handling of an exclusive media contract for the yearlong celebration was recently shown to favor one broadcast station, the San Antonio Express-News reported. The contract procedure was yet another reason, Brockhouse said, for Council to look deeper into how the organization functions – or doesn’t.

“I just think the entire process exhibits a lack of organizational control,” Brockhouse said.

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who chairs the Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee, said he and his colleagues will continue the call for stronger communication between the Tricentennial Commission and City Council.

“I will push to continue to be open and transparent about this transition,” said Treviño, who expects the previously requested documents at the committee’s meeting next week.

“[Council is] here to help. We want to know more so that we can do more,” he added. “There’s just no time to waste.” 

The Tricentennial year is slated to kick off in 49 days on New Year’s Eve with a major downtown celebration.

“The good thing that has come out of [the attention the Tricentennial has received] is there are community partners rising up for the cause,” Brockhouse said.

As of this month, the Tricentennial has raised $6.1 million of its $10.3 million budget goal. San Antonio business leader and philanthropist Bill Greehey announced a $1 million donation in September and USAA committed $500,000 on Nov. 2.

“I applaud Edward’s willingness to step aside and minimize distractions as San Antonio commemorates its 300th birthday,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg stated in an email. “The Tricentennial is the most important moment in our lifetime to exhibit who we are and what our city will be in its next era.”

But Benavides’ departure doesn’t mean the Tricentennial is “fixed,” Brockhouse said. “The buck just doesn’t stop with [him]. … There needs to be accountability to the top [City manager] with these types of things. We really got to think long and hard about how this could happen.”

The Tricentennial Commission is a local government corporation set up by City Council, but separate from city management. It has its own volunteer community board which will select the new CEO.

But part of the accountability lies in the Council, Treviño said, which now has a more direct connection to the Tricentennial through its reports to the Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee, Treviño said.

“The job of my committee is not to find blame or what went wrong, but to find out how this will work out,” he said. “We don’t want just a party. [The Tricentennial] should really be an educational opportunity [that] results in a stronger, unified voice in our community.”

10 thoughts on “Tricentennial CEO Edward Benavides Resigns

  1. Perhaps this should be a City-run organization. Instead of the Tricentennial Commission taking the New Year’s Eve celebration away from the Parks Foundation, perhaps the City should have handed off the Tricentennial operations to them in the first place. But I guess it’s too late now.

  2. No way this celebration will happen as expected. I’m sure it will be half ass. The city is a joke. E.B probably was over his head but politics is politics and S.A. is no different from other corrupted cities. THE CITY OF SAN ANTONIO IS ALL TALK, A JOKE AS ALWAYS. NOTHING EVER GETS DONE , WELL MAYBE 2O YEARS LATER AN OUTDATED IDEA WILL BE IMPLEMENTED.

  3. Really Sculley? You are willing to fall on your sword for Edward Benevides after it appears he cut a backroom deal with KSAT for exclusive media rights to the Tricentennial celebration?

    Really EB, after the apparent backroom dealing you say this about yourself: “Throughout my career, I have led with integrity, upheld high ethical values and always operated with the best intentions.”

  4. KSAT acted in the worst possible manner, too. By their nefarious efforts, under the direction of their ethically-challenged Phil Lane, “rigging” the contract for KSAT meant effectively depriving all other media outlets of promoting the city’s 300th birthday. Edward resigns in disgrace, but no penalty whatsoever for KSAT/Lane. It’s the city that really loses. Sure, KSAT stands for sloppy, mediocore work, but as we have now learned, it’s about sleazy behind the scenes deal-making, not fair competition.

  5. Oh, come on people. Stop the negativity. There is not a weekend in where SAT does not have something being . celebrated. Rap all these interests, have 300 fund some of it to give it that extra boost, and SAT can still pull this off. After all, SAT is many many things

    People will lose interest in a full year celebration. Start at when it all started, May 1st. This will give SAT plenty of time to regroup, reorganize.

    The Tricentennial Commission was formed as a Company, but the proper oversight would have noted:
    *Planning was behind schedule
    *Funding was behind schedule

    The Celebration was behind schedule and could not have stared on January 1, and this was obvious months ago.

    Its a Project, with schedules and budgets / funding which would have illustrated how things were going, too slow.

    Edward has learned his lesson. Keep him on and help him get SAT through this. Does the next person have the knowledge to pull this off, or just fall back to what shoulda, coulda, been done.

    This will only get out of control if SAT lets it.

  6. Recommendations:
    1)Tricentennial Commission, please stop attempting to “rebrand” existing events (that already worked and have worked for many years) like Fiesta and New Year Celebration (successfully organized and executed by SA PARKS for many years) under the SA 300 umbrella.
    2) Let Hemisfair create their own activities to celebrate and stop tagging along other organizations events (stop adding them to your SA 300 calendar, as if they were of your own creation).
    3) Yes San Antonio citizens and visitors want JUST A PARTY, after all we are celebrating 300 years. Let the the planning and projects (which are already underway to completion- such as SAN PEDRO CREEK IMPROVEMENTS) to the county, city and private founders. By the way this important milestone (SAN PEDRO CREEK) is not part of SA 300 organization per se. It is part of the wide celebration of our 300 years founding.
    4) An economic way to celebrate our rich history (without reinventing the wheel), educate and involve both city citizens and tourists is to held monthly tours (from Nov 2017 to July 2017) just like OPEN HOUSE of historic bldgs in NY and Chicago. There are plenty of historic bldgs downtown and plenty of artifacts that can be shown (such as FROST DOWNTOWN BLDG), ALAMO, LA MANSION DEL RIO, TOWER OF LIFE BUILDING, SAN FERNANDO CATHEDRAL, BRISCOE MUSEUM, SA CONSERVATION SOCIETY, KING WILLIAM, ETC.
    5) Just because we are celebrating the past, the new year concert does not have to be about musician legends. We are a city full of millennials, young and working people. Allocating dollars wisely to entertainment can be as having a world renown DJ to make a New Year rebellion a success.

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