City Hall
11:52 am
Wed October 10, 2012

Ethics Board Finds DiGiovanni Violated Code

In a unanimous ruling Tuesday night, the Ethics Review Board found that Deputy City Manager Pat DiGiovanni violated the city's ethics code when he failed to recuse himself from a conflict of interest involving a city contract and his future employer.

Earlier this year, DiGiovanni took on oversight of the selection process for contractors in a $300 million bid to expand and renovate the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

A joint partnership of Hunt, from Phoenix, and Zachry, of San Antonio, won the bid, but David Zachry, CEO of Zachry Corporation, sits on the board of DiGiovanni's new employer, Centro Partnership;  a non-profit whose mission is to revitalize the downtown area.

"I'm embarrassed by this, folks," said 54-year-old DiGiovanni to the Ethics Review Board Tuesday night. "As I've said, I've been in this profession for 30 years. I've never really, never, had my ethics questioned."

In hindsight, DiGiovanni explained to the board that he should have stepped away from the selection process, but remained firm that he feels he did not violate the code. He said he'd already been approached by members of Centro's executive committee, interviewed for the job and accepted it before the four finalists for the convention center project were named.

Furthermore, he maintained, had he not scored Hunt-Zachry, their score would have been much higher. If anything, he explained, his participation lowered their overall score.

Still, members of the Ethics Review Board perceived his actions as questionable. Attorney Michael Ariens, who sits on the board from District 3, said section 2-43 of the code explained during the meeting that it seems DiGiovanni, whether intentional or not, gave the appearance of impropriety.

"I think that Pat DiGiovanni's actions were not intended to benefit Zachy Corporation," Ariens said. "But I think the key to this section is to avoid the appearance of impropriety."

However, the board found DiGiovanni to not be in violation of two other sections, including collecting outside employment or unfair advancement in private interests.

"He just should have recused himself," said Ariens. "That would have solved all the problems and Zachry, Hunt Zachry, would have won by even more, and there wouldn't have been a cloud in that particular decision."

Ariens says the board has the authority to make recommendations or issue punishment such as a fine, but their purpose is to educate city officials on the ethical standards in San Antonio. The board closed the case and will issue an opinion to City Attorney Michael Bernard.