|By Melissa Monroe, San Antonio Express-News|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 20, 2005 - Melvin Tennant, the subject of a city manager's probe, stepped down Thursday as head of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau, the most powerful agency in the city's billion-dollar tourism industry.
Tennant's resignation stemmed from a personal relationship between him and an employee in his office, according to city officials. He was placed on paid administrative leave earlier this week as the city investigated the matter.
Roland Lozano, assistant to the city manager, declined to disclose details.
"We had a situation that we were informed of that was going on at the (CVB)," Lozano said. "We conducted the review for three days. Based upon the review, Mr. Tennant submitted his resignation."
In a news release issued by city officials, Tennant, who led the bureau for nearly two years, cited personal reasons for his resignation. Tennant didn't return calls seeking comment.
Tennant may have had little choice but to leave. Sources said Wednesday that he could face termination if he chose to stay.
Meanwhile, city officials moved fast to fill his position with an interim appointee, the CVB's assistant director, Janis Schmees. She joined the bureau in September 2004 after serving as CEO of the Hershey-Capital Regional Visitors Bureau.
Schmees informed Tennant's bosses about the matter.
"There was a situation that was brought to my attention, and I spoke to Roland (Lozano)," Schmees said.
It's unclear when a search for Tennant's permanent replacement will begin, but Councilman Roger O. Flores -- whose downtown district features many of San Antonio's major tourist destinations -- wants the city to move quickly.
Prior to the Thursday afternoon announcement, Flores said: "I don't see any reason for not -- if he resigns today -- starting tomorrow."
That's despite the fact council has yet to mount a second search for a new city manager.
Tennant was a highly credentialed executive in the tourism industry, holding many board positions on national tourism groups. Meeting News magazine, an industry publication, named Tennant one of the 25 most influential people in the meetings industry in its 2003 issue.
When Tennant came to San Antonio in July 2003, he snagged a salary of $142,500 -- nearly 10 percent more than previous Director Steve Moore received. Before coming to San Antonio, he led the Charlotte Convention & Visitors Bureau, also known as Visit Charlotte, for 11 years.
He also promptly made staff and department changes, enhanced communication and put a strong focus on the bureau showing accountability.
But a handful of CVB employees have taken other jobs in recent months.
Sally Forrest, a former convention marketing director for the bureau, left the bureau soon after Tennant arrived for the Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. Forrest said she felt her contributions would have been valued elsewhere.
Others tourism officials locally felt despite Tennant's changes at the bureau, he was an asset for the industry.
"It really comes at an unfortunate and crucial time," said Siegfried Richter, general manager at the Hilton Palacio del Rio. "The loss will definitely affect us. He was widely respected as a professional. I hope the city will consult with the industry and who should be moved in the job to fill it quickly. Any time wasted will be a substantial financial loss for San Antonio."
Express-News researcher Kelly Guckian contributed to this report.
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