Carol Wallace, who rose from an entry-level events coordinator to head the Colorado Convention Center, has been named the new chief executive of the San Diego Convention Center, officials announced Friday.
The 42-year-old Wallace succeeds Tom Liegler, who resigned the post n April amid allegations that he had held half a dozen private parties at taxpayer expense that included his family and friends.
Wallace will earn a base salary of $115,000 annually for overseeing operations of the 760,000 square-foot facility, a $14-million budget and a full-time staff of 140. The new waterfront center was host to 354 events in its first year, exceeding the first-year total of any other convention center in the United States, said spokeswoman Donna Alm.
Morgan Dene Oliver, president of the San Diego Convention Center Corp. board of directors, said that Wallace was offered the job and accepted late Thursday night after a lengthy closed-door session of the board.
“San Diego is fortunate to be in the position to welcome someone like Carol to a major leadership role,” Oliver said at a news conference Friday at the Convention Center.
Oliver also announced that the Convention Center Corp. expects to request an unspecified amount of restitution from Liegler for private parties he staged at the center. The board is holding onto salary it owes Liegler, but Oliver and Alm refused to specify how much.
Liegler, who was general manager of the Convention Center from its inception, quit in April after reports that he had held six parties whose guest lists included members of his family, his golfing club, colleagues from the Anaheim Convention Center where he worked for 20 years and a social club whose members were all named Tom, to which he belonged.
The events included a $1,411 party to which Liegler invited 32 members of his golfing club, called the Dana Group, and a $745 dinner for 12 members of the Liegler family. At the time, Liegler said he reimbursed the Convention Center for the latter event after the expenditure was questioned, and that he planned to pay for the former.
Liegler did not return a telephone call to his home Friday.
City Auditor Ed Ryan’s office is still conducting a review of the situation, Oliver said.
A June report in Denver’s Rocky Mountain News accused Wallace of overspending her expense accounts and using public money for items such as bar tabs, in-room movies and personal moving and telephone expenses that were not reimbursable under city regulations.
But Wallace said in an telephone interview that a city review determined that she owed less than $100 in ineligible expenses out of the more than $25,000 she spent while traveling on official business.
Wallace, who was chosen from among five finalists for the job, said he is eager for the post because “San Diego is a leader in the marketing (of conventions) and is a premier center. San Diego has a great reputation in the industry.”
Wallace began her career in the convention industry in 1980 as an entry-level events coordinator at the convention center in Dallas, rising to be assistant manager.
She became executive director of the Colorado Convention Center in 1989, overseeing two facilities, said Margo Callahan, director of marketing there.
Wallace, who is black, said she was aware of the controversy surrounding the Board of Port Commissioners’ 1989 refusal to name the San Diego Convention Center for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She said she knows few of the specifics of that issue and it did not affect her decision in accepting the post.