I am troubled and saddened that this newspaper published the March 10 story "Fimbres linked to special TCC deals," about the good efforts of LULAC, a volunteer-driven organization, working to better the lives of the children of Southern Arizona.
The story tainted these efforts, potentially harming the organization and the children it tries to help.
In the article, the writer fails to mention the purpose of the LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) dinner in question and that other organizations received similar deals. He also infers that I personally benefited from a special deal at taxpayer expense. This was not true. What this was about was the annual LULAC Educator's Banquet.
The allegations all came from a claim from the former deputy director of the Tucson Convention Center, fired for misusing funds, double-booking events and questionable record keeping.
The timing of this story is also questionable since the investigation took place last year. The LULAC Youth Leadership Conference was under way at Pima Community College West Campus, and I had announced my intentions to seek a second term as the Ward 5 council member the day before the story was published.
There were no special deals, and as I have said previously, I had asked to have my name removed from the contract for the banquet when I was elected to the Tucson City Council in 2009, something that both Aramark (a food-service provider) and Tommy Obermaier, the TCC deputy director, failed to do.
LULAC works in Southern Arizona to improve the graduation rates in schools by hosting the annual Youth Leadership Conference. The goal is to motivate students in the eighth to 12th grades to show that education is the key to success and that they need to graduate. Every year, a few weeks later at the annual Educator's Banquet, students are recognized for their achievements, along with community leaders and educators for their work.
Proceeds raised by the Educator's Banquet allow LULAC to sponsor students to attend the annual LULAC National Educational Service Centers Youth Leadership Seminar and provide scholarships in coordination with LULAC's National Scholarship Foundation. Proceeds also support the Manuel de Jesus Alvarado Scholarship Fund for local students. In addition, food boxes are provided to the most needy by LULAC. The organization has supported the annual Rosa Parks event, the FBI Community Service Awards and several Knights of Columbus events.
Both the conference and banquet were created in 1988, and the conference has hosted more than 100,000 participants. Close to 400 young people have received scholarships to help out with their education at the banquet.
The city of Tucson and Aramark were both sponsors of the banquet, which allowed underprivileged youths and their families to attend, something both were recognized for by LULAC.
Other nonprofit organizations, such as the League of Mexican American Women, the Metropolitan Education Commission, the Tucson Mariachi Conference and Chicanos por la Causa, which work to better the lives of children, have held their fundraising events at the Tucson Convention Center under similar arrangements. Now the LULAC Educator's Banquet will join these groups and hold its event at a different venue to continue to help support the youth of our community.
It's unfortunate for Obermaier, who ended his career with the city of Tucson as it was reported. It is more unfortunate that the reporter, who stated in the conversation with me that his own wife had been a member of LULAC, wrote the piece, tainting the efforts of LULAC volunteers by referring to such claims as fact. This despite the fact that Obermaier admitted he couldn't back them up in the testimony, the writer reported.
This wasn't about one person but instead about a group of committed volunteers who work to help better the lives of children through educational attainment. It will be unfortunate if this article damages the effort of this organization and, in turn, hurts the lives of children it is trying to help.
Richard G. Fimbres is a Tucson city councilman representing Ward 5.