Just when we thought we’d heard the last of him, controversial San Antonio event planner Gregorio Palomino is back in the news.
A new report by Texas Public Radio
based on federal records it sued to obtain
suggests Palomino may made misleading statements to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as his business pursued a $39 million contract for work on the agency’s hunger-relief program.
CRE8AD8, Palomino's San Antonio-based company, received the contract as a part of the USDA's Farmers to Families Food Box program, which supplies surplus food to families economically hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to TPR's reporting, the documents show that Palomino trumpeted existing relationships with the San Antonio Food Bank and Feeding Texas, even though leaders of those nonprofit say they were unfamiliar with the company before it landed the deal.
“We are initially interested in serving the San Antonio Food Bank located in San Antonio, TX and already have an agreement in place to do so,” read an April 30 email from Palomino to the USDA shared online by TPR.
But Food Bank president Eric Cooper told the station he'd never heard of the company until after the contracts were announced.
“I think it shows that there's this overstatement, [and] it's the perception of things that really, most people would ask, ‘Well, you know, did you really have a relationship with these guys?’” Cooper said.
Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas, which works extensively with all of Texas’ 21 food banks, shared a similar account.
In a May 1 email included in the USDA documents discussed by TPR, Palomino told the agency he'd contacted all of the food banks in Texas. The email is time-stamped May 1, but Cole says Palomino had no relationship with Feeding Texas and other organizations at that time.
“If USDA awarded the contract on the basis of having those relationships, that is troubling, because we did not have those until after the award,” Cole told TPR.
TPR asked the USDA what impact Palomino’s representations about the relationships could have had on the outcome of his bid, but the agency declined comment.
Palomino has been a focus of media investigations since CRE8AD8 improbably landed the sizable federal contract. Those reports have included a history of questionable claims
regarding past clients, nonexistent
licensing and the firm's inability to deliver
on the terms of its government pact.
Indeed, CRE8AD8 was only able to complete two-thirds of its obligations under the contract, USDA officials said at a congressional hearing this summer.
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