"These four dishonest men are a disgrace to the city of San Antonio." - Bella11356
"This culture of city corruption will always be an on going problem." - Peaches
"Isn't this a violation of the terms of his city employment?" -Preexisting
Those are just a few of the comments you made on our website about our investigation of the Alamodome. The News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooters uncovered several city employees using the luxury suites as a way to benefit themselves, family and friends.
You asked us to keep digging and we did. News 4 WOAI’s Mireya Villarreal has new details on a barter system that seems to been used several times over the last few years.
The suite deal is pretty simple. Several employees of the city have been using the Alamodome luxury suites, city property, to barter with local businesses like The RK Group and Aramark.
"The evidence shows there really was some poor judgment being used,” Pat DiGiovanni, Deputy City Manager, told us. “Mistakes were made with regards to that. And we accept the findings of the report."
Part of our investigation found Marc Solis, General Manager of the Alamodome, and Jim Mery, former Assistant Director of Convention, Sports and Entertainment had taken free suites at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in exchange for a free suite at the Dome for an event in January.
Pat DiGiovanni is the Deputy City Manager in charge of watching over the Alamodome. He told us both men were severely disciplined, but they weren't fired because there was no policy in place to guide these employees on how to properly use the luxury suites.
“Just to make clear, you do have an ethics policy,” News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Mireya Villarreal asked.
“We do,” DiGiovanni answered.
“You do have a financial disclosure policy in effect, correct,” Villarreal followed up.
“We do,” DiGiovanni repeated.
“It sounds like they broke both of these policies with the city. And yet they still have their jobs,” Villarreal stated.
To which DiGiovanni noted, “Well, number one, they have the opportunity to correct that given the findings of the investigation."
DiGiovanni also claims this was a one time deal that happened seven months ago. And according to the city's financial disclosure policy they still have time to report what they took.
But Trouble Shooter Mireya Villarreal got a hold of several emails sent by Marc Solis in December 2010. In that correspondence Solis reminds his Grand Hyatt contact that he'll need another room for New Year's Eve for the Alamodome's Booking Manager Michael Flores. But this exchange wasn’t for a Monster Truck Jam suite; it was for a suite at the Alamo Bowl in 2010.
In fact, in an interview with a city investigator Solis admits to the exchange.
City of San Antonio Recorded Video:
Investigator: New Year's Eve last year, did you did you secure a room there also?
Marc Solis: Yes.
Investigator: Did you pay for your room then last year?
Marc Solis: I don't think so."
But the free stuff doesn't end there. In April 2011 Marc Solis secured two more free rooms for the last weekend of NIOSA at the Grand Hyatt. No word on what the Marc’s Grand Hyatt contact got in exchange or if any other employees benefited from this deal.
News 4 WOAI’s Mireya Villarreal asked DiGiovanni about these other instances, “Well, I'm not sure that there were actual suites in exchange with the Grand Hyatt. We never saw any evidence of that in 2010.”
“The OMI investigation had at least two emails in 2010 and they had emails in 2011 for a NIOSA suite exchange,” Villarreal corrected him.
“Ok. Well, I'm not aware of those. I'll have to check into those myself,” DiGiovanni stated.
We also asked the San Antonio City Clerk for Marc Solis and Michael Flores' financial disclosure reports for the last several years. Neither reported any gifts from the Grand Hyatt for 2010 or 2011.
The city did want to clear up, even though Michael Sawaya, Director of Convention, Sports and Entertainment, was named in the original tip and was investigated; he was cleared of any wrong doing.
At this point, the city would like to close the book on the suite deal scandal. But obviously there are still several unanswered questions about how long this has been going on.