SAN ANTONIO - Their jobs are to wine and dine the folks who can bring big conventions and loads of vacationers to town. We’re talking about the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau and it brings in billions to the San Antonio economy.
CVB executive director Cassandra Matej is a born saleswoman and she knows how to sell the city of San Antonio. Under her leadership since being hired last June, the city department boasts numbers like 26-million visitors to the Alamo city a year and 11-billion in economic impact.
But it's the perks the CVB uses, like the hottest tickets to the biggest events that have the department under a microscope. Perks that are all paid for by tax dollars raised through a hotel and motel occupancy tax.
Matej says perks like tickets to Spurs games, concerts and the Alamo bowl go to people with connections to bring large groups to town. But what we were hearing was that CVB employees also wine and dine their own family and friends at some of those big-time events. So we put in an open records request to see who really gets to take advantage of the tax payer funded perks.
But that's when someone inside the city department raised concerns the records we asked for were being altered to hide what was really going on.
The city's office of municipal integrity received an anonymous complaint from someone inside the CVB claiming its managers "misused their positions by directing staff to alter requested documents to protect friends and family members, and possibly cover up fraudulent behavior on their part."
A claim the executive director denies. “It was a team that did the document but I would never falsify documents. It's not in my DNA, ” said Matej.
The office of municipal integrity reviewed these summary spreadsheets the CVB spent two weeks creating to answer our request. It says those spreadsheets actually show someone changed the names of family and friends of people working at the bureau to a more non-descript entry of just "guest." Meaning, we would not know those "guests" were really their family and friends of CVB staff.
“What I instructed our staff to do was to make sure what documents that we gave to you were exactly correct. And during the time we realized that there was a difference between who had requested and who actually attended and I wanted to make sure that you had the correct document," says Matej.
To see how the executive director was taking her best friend to some of the events paid for with tax dollars, watch the attached video.