Arizona Daily Star embarrasses itself again with faux ‘scandal’


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

We have a city council election in Tucson this year, and you know what that means — our sad small town newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star, is going to engage in bashing the Tucson City Council, and perhaps even cajoling Republican candidates to run for office as it did two years ago when "Metro Team Leader" editor Joe Burchell and The Brodesky/O'Dell tag team (AKA, the B&O Journalistic Railroad) begged for candidates to run for Tucson city council. See, Tucson needs you to quit carping and get involved, and Mayoral hopefuls would do well to understand the job.

Then there was the attempt to claim the scalp of Tucson City Council Member Shirley Scott in a ridiculously captioned editorial endorsement of the Phisher King, Tyler Vogt, who spam emailed everyone on the City of Tucson email list. Tyler Vogt's cooperative approach needed. Luckily that douchebag lost.

The "B&O Journalistic Railroad" is no more at the Daily Star (they both have moved on to greener pastures), but "Metro Team Leader" editor Joe Burchell has got himself a new kid in town to do his "fun with facts and figures" smears of city council members with faux "scandals."

On Sunday, the Arizona Daily Star ran this report by Darren DaRonco: Tucson Councilman Fimbres linked to special deals for group using convention center. Here is the lede:

City Councilman Richard Fimbres used his position to get discounted rent and free meals at taxpayer expense for an organization he once ran, according to a claim made by the fired former deputy director of the Tucson Convention Center.

The deal Fimbres is alleged to have secured for the League of United Latin American Citizens cost taxpayers $9,581 over the three years since he took office.

That's as far as the Daily Star hopes you will read. Ooohh, a scandal! The only problem is that if you actually read the entire report, it is clear that this is an attempt by the Daily Star at sensationalism to create a faux "scandal" where one does not exist. There is no "there" there.

The "allegations" come from a disgruntled former employee, TCC Deputy Director Tommy Obermaier, "who was fired in January for what city officials charged were years of mismanagement." Right there we have a witness credibility problem.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has been receiving discounted rent and comp meals for more than a decade — as have other organizations holding events at the TCC, which DaRonco glosses over in his report because it does not move the faux "scandal" story forward, and undermines the sensationalism of his report.

After taking office in December 2009, Fimbres said "he told Obermaier he couldn't be
involved anymore in order to avoid a possible conflict of interest." "City documents, however, list Fimbres as both the customer and billing
invoice recipient for the three banquets that took place at the TCC from
2010 to 2012." Ah, but there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this: "Fimbres said those were probably the same old contracts they used since
he was directly involved with the banquets, but Obermaier never bothered
changing them. Fimbres said while he liked Obermaier personally,
Obermaier did a poor job of keeping detailed records." You know, the reason this disgruntled former employee was fired.

Moreover, there was nothing improper with the arrangement. "Half-price rent and 25 percent parking discounts are legal," City Attorney Mike Rankin said. Rankin said "he doesn't believe Fimbres violated the gift statute or
any other applicable law since LULAC is a charitable organization." Rankin also said "he has no reason not to believe Fimbres' assertion that he did not order Obermaier to give the LULAC discounts."

Ruh-roh, so this faux "scandal" is falling apart faster than toilet paper in the rain. What else have you got?

Sponsored meals were also a part of the deal, but Fimbres contended they were paid by the TCC's caterer, Aramark, not taxpayers. "The dinners were not paid for by Aramark, however. Obermaier told Aramark the city would pay for the meals, city records show." Uh-huh, so the guy who made this arrangement is the disgruntled former employee, Tommy Obermaier, who was fired for years of mismanagement, not councilman Fimbres.

In other words, the Arizona Daily Star has got nuthin'. This is journalisitc sensationalism to create a faux "scandal" where one does not exist because it is a city council election year. The only real scandal here is yellow journalism to sell more newspapers.

What follows is the response Councilmember Richard Fimbres has sent to the Arizona Daily Star in reference to the March 10, 2013 article published regarding the LULAC Educators Banquet and his involvement.

To the Editor of the Arizona Daily Star:

I am troubled and saddened that this publication wrote a story about
the good efforts of a volunteer-driven organization, who works to better
the lives of the children of Southern Arizona by trying to taint these
efforts and harm both the organization and the children they try to

The writer failed to mention the intent and purpose of the dinner in
question, that other groups and organizations received similar deals, as
well as inferring I personally benefited from a special deal, this from
a claim from a former employee fired for misusing funds, double booking
events and questionable record keeping, as this reporter had reported
previous but failed to mention in this article.

The timing of this story is also questionable since the investigation
took place last year.  The LULAC Youth Leadership Conference has started
and that I had announced my intentions to seek a second term as the Ward
5 Councilmember.

There were no special deals and as I said previously, I had asked to
have my name removed from the contract when I had been elected to the
Tucson City Council in 2009, something that both ARAMARK and Obermaier
failed to do.  This was one of several instances, previously reported by
this writer, of Obermaier’s failure to keep records concerning events
held at the TCC.

LULAC is one of the largest and oldest civil rights and educational
organizations in the United States, operating at more than 900 LULAC
councils nationwide.  LULAC is a non-profit, volunteer driven
organization so to say that one person benefited was not true.

LULAC Council 1057 has worked in Southern Arizona to improve the
graduation rates in schools by hosting the annual Youth Leadership
Conference, to motivate students, between the 8th and 12th grades, to
show that education is the key to success and that they needed to
graduate.  LULAC has worked well with many of the educational
institutions, as well as the Metropolitan Education Commission.

Every year the Educator’s Banquet is held, where students are
recognized for their achievements, as well as community leaders and
educators for their work.  The Banquet is organized by members of LULAC
Council 1057, as well as members of the community with a passion and
commitment to education and our youth.

Proceeds raised by the annual Educator’s Banquet, allows LULAC to
sponsor students to attend the Annual LNESC Washington Youth Leadership
Seminar and provide scholarships in coordination with LULAC's National
Scholarship Foundation. Additionally, monies are raised to support the
Manuel de Jesus Alvarado Scholarship Fund for local students.  

In addition, Food Boxes are also provided to the most needy by LULAC,
the organization has supported the annual Rosa Park’s event, the FBI
Community Service Awards and several Knight's of Columbus events.

Other monies raised from the Banquet also help to support the annual
LULAC Youth Leadership Conference held in March of each year.  Both the
Conference and Banquet were created in 1988.  

To date, the conference has hosted more than 100,000 participants,
sending students to Washington D.C., and close to 400 young people have
received scholarships to help out with their education.  

The City of Tucson and ARAMARK were both sponsors of the Banquet.
These sponsorships allowed underprivileged youths and their families to
attend the Banquet. At past Banquets, both were recognized for this.  
In addition, they were also recognized at the Youth Leadership
Conference as well at the LULAC FBI Community Service Awards Luncheon.

It is unfortunate for Obermaier that his career with the City of Tucson
ended as it was reported by this writer but it is more unfortunate that
the writer, who claimed his spouse is a member of LULAC, wrote such an
article, tainting the efforts of a group of committed community
volunteers working to better the lives of our children in Southern
Arizona by referring to such claims as fact, when the person who made
them, admitted he couldn’t back them up in the testimony the writer
referred to.

This effort is not about one individual, but a group of committed
volunteers who work to help better the lives of children through
educational attainment.   It would be unfortunate that the article would
damage this effort of this organization and in turn, hurt the lives of
children it is trying to help.

Other non-profit organizations, such as the League of Mexican American
Women, the Metropolitan Education Commission, the Tucson Mariachi
Conference and Chicanos Por La Causa, to name just a few, work to better
the lives of children and hold fund raising events to promote these
efforts.  All these organizations use to hold their fund raising events
at the Tucson Convention Center under similar arrangements.  Now the
LULAC Educator’s Banquet will join these groups and hold their event
now at a different venue, to continue to help support the efforts of the
youth of our community, in an atmosphere which is more welcoming to
helping to better the lives of the youth of Southern Arizona.

Richard G. Fimbres

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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.