Team San Jose, the peculiar alliance of hoteliers, unions and city bureaucrats that runs the city’s entertainment and convention venues, is facing the biggest crisis in its short, contentious history.
Last Wednesday, finance chief Scott P. Johnson issued a report showing that the quasi-public entity overshot its budget by $750,000, and tangled its bookkeeping so badly that director Dan Fenton can’t even say exactly where the missing money went. Then on Monday, City Councilmember Sam Liccardo turned up the heat, asking city manager Deb Figone to dig into the hotel-tax-funded entity, which is run by Fenton and an executive committee including South Bay Labor Council boss Cindy Chavez.
Meanwhile, with the rest of the city reeling from massive budget cuts, Fenton took a little trip to Fort Lauderdale late last month to speak at a convention for the convention industry—the Destination Marketing Association International. As that organization’s outgoing chair, Fenton apparently needed the moral support of a large posse of Team San Jose staff members—he reportedly brought a half-dozen with him on the trip to the Sunshine State.
Ironically, Fenton was there to speak about how cities can attract tourism while dealing with disasters: “very public environmental and political issues (i.e. oil spills, floods, volcanic ash, travel boycotts, etc.).” He should have added financial scandals to the list. Word is that Fenton also did a tongue-in-cheek skit at the convention about his desperate need of a “make-over and re-branding,” considering Team San Jose’s reputation in the trade press, as Mayor Chuck Reed so delicately put it, as “a disaster in the industry.”
That comment came after Team San Jose was called on the carpet by a civil grand jury for its financial mismanagement—for the second time in three years.
Keri McLain, CEO of the local YWCA, is among those who are beyond frustrated with TSJ, to the point where she moved her organization’s annual fundraising luncheon from the McEnery Center to Santa Clara because she couldn’t afford TSJ’s rates. “As much as we wanted to stay in San Jose, we had the obligation to move,” McLain says, sounding apologetic.
Fenton, on the other hand, is chipper, according to a quote in the Biz Journal: “I continue to look at future opportunities to improve together,” he said. “We’re pleased to do it.”