TCC official's firing was a tough but correct move

Our view: Deputy director Obermaier had a history of mismanagement
2013-01-23T00:00:00Z TCC official's firing was a tough but correct move Arizona Daily Star
January 23, 2013 12:00 am

Last Friday's firing of Tucson Convention Center deputy director Tommy Obermaier ended months of investigation.

The city's findings that led to the 18-year employee's dismissal revealed Obermaier's failure to heed warnings that his actions violated city policy and a lack of vigilant supervision by managers.

Obermaier, 51, was placed on leave Aug. 21 and continued to collect his salary - $48.41 an hour plus benefits - totaling $38,890 through Jan. 12.

The investigation found that Obermaier, who spent all his city career at the TCC, mismanaged bookings, mishandled contracts and co-promoted events for which he was also the TCC booking agent, according to a story in Saturday's Star by city government reporter Darren DaRonco.

The city says Obermaier's mismanagement cost "a minimum of $143,000."

Obermaier did not answer his cellphone when called by us Tuesday and by DaRonco last week, and the voice mailbox was full and would not accept new messages. His termination can be appealed through the city's Civil Service Commission. Information on whether he has filed an appeal was not available Tuesday.

Among the reasons for termination reported by DaRonco were:

"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."

The initial Pima County sheriff's investigation found Obermaier did nothing illegal, but it led to the city's own investigation of administrative violations.

Obermaier has been described as being personable and well-liked, and we can understand that the convention-music-event booking business requires some deal-making.

But city government has rules. What may be standard operating procedure for private entertainment and convention venues was not acceptable for a public operation.

As a longtime city employee who had been suspended and reprimanded previously for the same reasons that led to his termination, Obermaier had ample warning to save what by any measure was a good job.

His suspension in 2007 for double-booking resulted in a written warning to never double-book again. After a five-day suspension for DUI in 2009, he failed to get his driving privileges restored. Driving was a condition of his continued employment.

The fact that double-booking occurred again and that Obermaier failed to have his driving privileges restored indicate that administrative oversight was clearly lacking.

City Manager Richard Miranda told us he believes he has the management, administration and protocols in place to prevent situations like Obermaier's from happening again.

We applaud Miranda and his staff for confronting tough personnel problems within city government. We urge them to continue and to act swiftly to avoid more cost to taxpayers.

Arizona Daily Star

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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