Community developer director's official exit pushed back to Jan. 1
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — This city's community development director will remain on paid suspension through the end of this year, then will leave his post under a mutual agreement with the city, the mayor says.
City spokesman Karin Meza said earlier this week that Michael Trend had already stepped down, but Mayor Gerardo Sanchez said Wednesday the official date of his separation will be Jan. 1.
“He is on administrative suspension,” said Sanchez, adding Trend will continue to receive his salary until the separation takes effect.
Trend, hired by the city in 2004, receives an annual salary of $60,000.
Neither Sanchez nor other city officials would comment on what led to the separation or why its effective date was delayed until Jan. 1, but news of the agreement prompted speculation that it was because of the city's loss of about $45,000 in what is being called a scam.
In 2011, the city council gave $45,000 to the city-affiliated Corporation for the Arts and Humanities to contract a band for the city's Barrier 2 Bridges cultural festival. Trend, who also has served as vice president of the corporation, wired the funds to the bank account in Mexico of what was thought to be the booking agency for the rock band Maná.
The contract to bring the well-known Mexican band never materialized, and city officials now say the city was scammed.
“There is nothing negative that can be said about Michael Trend,” Sanchez said. “He brought in many grants to San Luis, he worked very well, and he was very active in events in the community.”
Trend confirmed to Bajo El Sol Thursday that he had reached an agreement to step down from his post, but declined to offer any other details.
He said he leaves the city satisfied with what was accomplished during his eight years as community development director.
“I believe that the city is better off now than when I arrived here, not just because of my work but because of the work of the other department heads and employees.”
Trend, whose responsibilities included seeking grants for city projects, said he is leaving just as the city is in the process of applying for four grants totaling almost $2 million. One of them is a grant that would fund development of the city's industrial park, while another would kick off the second phase of improvements on Hidalgo Street on the west side of the city.
Also, he added, he is leaving just as the city has received another $500,000 grant for improvements to the city's water distribution and sewer systems.
Last week, he added, “We received the Most Valuable Partner (award) that is given by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to agencies that distinguish themselves in the use of funds that the department provides.
“I am sure that the projects that I had will be in good hands. There are many capable people in the city, and I hope it continues to be so, because I also am a resident of San Luis and I benefit from what City Hall achieves.”
Meanwhile, Sanchez said City Hall has in place policies and procedures that should have prevented the concert scam.
“There is a process to prevent that from occurring,” he said, “and a professional person has to follow those steps. What is certain is that this is not going to happen again.”
Sanchez said city police are continuing an investigation into the loss of the money and that Mexican authorities have offered their help in locating the scammers in Mexico.
“Things need to be clarified and we are looking at all options. We are not writing off that money as lost without first doing an in-depth investigation.”