Longtime Tucson Convention Center deputy director Tommy Obermaier was fired Friday for what officials charged were years of mismanagement of bookings at the facility costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The move concluded a five-month investigation into numerous violations of city policy concerning double-booking events, mishandling contracts and the loss of significant revenues.
The city started its its own investigation after a Pima County Sheriff's Department investigation of a possible conflict-of-interest violation by Obermaier for acting as the TCC booker for an event for which he was also the promoter. Even though the law-enforcement investigation found Obermaier did nothing illegal, it did reveal potential administrative violations that the city wanted to take a closer look at.
What the city found was a trail of missing charges, unsigned contracts, double-bookings and other dubious practices, including:
• In March 2011, Obermaier co-promoted the Music as a Weapon Concert, which was against city policy since co-promotion places the city at a "significant liability." Obermaier failed to include $13,491 in expenses in the final settlement.
• In June 2011, Obermaier double-booked the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses Convention with a circus. To rectify the problem, Obermaier drafted an agreement with the church that included over $100,000 in concessions to be paid out through 2016.
• In April 2012, Obermaier gave a "substantial discount" and also agreed to purchase 100 dinners for $2,611 without authorization for the annual League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) banquet.
• On May, 19, 2012, Obermaier's "negligence" resulted in $6,500 of city money being paid to cover a promoter's equipment-rental expenses. Later that month, Obermaier withheld up to $13,000 of expenses for two concerts, Morrissey and Jane's Addiction. In addition to the withheld charges, both concerts took place without a signed contract.
• On Sept. 7, 2012, Obermaier agreed to cover all of the security expenses for the promoter of the Bar Stool Foam Tour. Also, the unsigned contract lacked accurate information pertaining to the actual name of the event and ticket-office fees Obermaier agreed to. According to city records, even the event promoter conceded the deal Obermaier agreed "was a poor one for the TCC."
Calls to Obermaier's cellphone were not answered. His voice mail indicated the message box was full and no additional messages could be recorded.
Obermaier was no stranger to discipline during his tenure with the city.
In 2007, he was suspended for double-bookings. Other disciplinary measures included a five-day suspension for a DUI in 2009. One of the stated reasons Obermaier was discharged Friday was he failed to get his driving privileges restored - a condition of his continued employment. And last May, he was reprimanded for conflict-of-interest and ethics violation
Obermaier can appeal his termination to the city's Civil Service Commission.
Obermaier had been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 21. During that time, he has collected $39,890 in salary or about $48 per hour, according to city records.
Police Department Capt. Mark Timpf was brought in last March to act as the TCC's interim director.
City Manager Richard Miranda wrote in a memo Friday that "TCC management and operations have been stabilized." He added his office is discussing future TCC goals and is talking with the mayor and council about hiring a permament director of the TCC.
Councilman Steve Kozachik said when a city employee's actions result in squandered taxpayer money, the city is obligated to step in, even if the employee is well-liked.
"On a personal level, I'm sorry for him. But the funds we're responsible for belong to the taxpayers," Kozachik said. "If the process found that wasn't being honored, then they had a duty to act."
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or email@example.com