City Government
5:35 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Ethics Board Rules On DiGiovanni Case, Issues Admonition Letter

San Antonio’s Ethics Review Board met Tuesday night, more than a week after it attempted to settle an ongoing citizen complaint against former Deputy City Manager Pat DiGiovanni.

The problem for the board was that  it did not have a quorum, an issue that chair Arthur Downey said hadn’t happened in more than a decade, in his experience.

However, members got down to work, hearing from one of the citizens who filed a formal complaint against DiGiovanni, who is now executive director at Centro Partnership, the downtown revitalization non-profit.

Rey Rocha spoke publicly about his dissatisfaction with what he believed was improper conduct on the part of DiGiovanni.

He, and at least one other, Michael Cuellar, who did not come to the Ethics Review Board meeting, believe DiGiovanni violated city policies when he became a candidate for Centro, while at the same time remaining on the city’s selection staff to help pick the construction partner to expand the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

David Zachry, the owner of the Zachry Construction, one of the construction companies that won the bid, was also on the board of directors at Centro.

The board found a problem with DiGiovanni’s actions in October, but at that time members felt he acted unknowingly. DiGiovanni requested the board’s opinion. The case was only reopened when two citizens’ complaints came forward.

Attorney Frank Garza, who was representing the city, said the letter of admonition is the lightest punishment the board could give.

"Mr. DiGiovanni knew he was pursuing both the job," said Rocha. "Mr. Zachry knew it, [City Manager Sheryl] Sculley knew it according to these emails, and he even admitted it. He should have recused himself. If government cannot regulate itself, it is why you ladies and gentlemen are here."

Following a statement by Rocha and a statement on behalf of Cuellar which was entered into evidence, the board met in executive session.

The board came back and ruled similarly to its October finding -- that DiGiovanni violated policies in place by the city -- and decided to write a letter of admonition against him.

Attorney Frank Garza, who was representing the city, said the letter of admonition is the lightest punishment the board could give.

But Shawn Fitzpatrick, DiGiovanni’s attorney, said he struggled with the knowledge the board would write a letter because it didn’t seem consistent with its October ruling. If the board found DiGiovanni unknowingly violated the city's ethics policy, Fitzpatrick contends that the ruling isn’t in line with the city’s own wording of the policy:

“To impose or recommend sanctions for a first violation of the ethics code or municipal campaign finance code, other than a letter of notification, a letter of admonition or a referral to training, the board must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the person acted knowingly (underline added), unless otherwise provided by this code.” 

San Antonio resident Bill Richard spoke to the board following the ruling and said that while he believed Mayor Castro and City Manager Sculley do a good job overall for the city, he would like to see accountability for city employees.

"As far as I'm concerned,” he said, “the board of Ethics has essentially whitewashed this thing as best they could. It was just flat out blatant that the ethics code was violated so they have made that determination, but went on to make this recommendation that nothing else happened. That's just wrong."

The complaint brought against Zachry, by Cuellar, was dismissed. DiGiovanni and Zachry were not present at the meeting.