First, there were questions about the park's involvement with Richard Favreau, who was fined $140,000 and was banned for life from obtaining a racing license in this state over the disappearance of at least 140 greyhounds he was meant to transport to adoption groups (see "Biting Back," Currents, Dec. 28, 2006, and "Dogs Gone," Nov. 9, 2006). In his written ruling, Geoffrey Gonsher, director of the Arizona Department of Racing, noted that TGP was unable to produce records to show what happened to the dogs.
Since the story ran, a handful of people have come to the Weekly to voice concern and contempt. One such person--Weekly contributor Karyn Zoldan--fired off an e-mail with Liz Perez's contact information.
Liz was upset things didn't go exactly as planned when TGP hosted a benefit to pay for her daughter's medical expenses. Desirae Perez, 18, suffers from a seizure disorder, and Liz had learned of a treatment--hyperbaric oxygen therapy--that could improve her quality of life.
The hitch was that Desirae would need to undergo 40 separate hour-long sessions at $150 apiece. While she had basic health insurance through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the treatments, which are considered experimental, weren't covered. That meant the Perezes had to come up with $6,000.
Liz had two meetings with TGP officials at which she took copious notes after she floated the idea by them of hosting the benefit. Everything seemed on the up-and-up, she said, even though park officials--namely Director of Marketing Hal Wafer--consistently brushed her off when she asked for her copy of a written contract.
"We had been burned before," Liz recalled.
She wanted to get in writing the verbal agreements she had with TGP: The park offered to pay for half of a promotional ad in the Tucson Weekly, as well as a variety of other costs. Then, on July 15, 2006--the day of the event--those she dealt with at TGP became far less accommodating.
"They were very rude from the get-go," Liz said. "Their attitudes completely changed the day of the show."
The benefit included live musical entertainment, a silent auction of items donated by people and businesses throughout the city, and a Mexican-food buffet.
The entertainment, which was supposed to take place outside, was forced into TGP's clubhouse after an amp blew because of the hot weather. According to Liz, TGP charged people $10 to get into the clubhouse for the entertainment and buffet--which would prove significant when the Perezes finally got an itemized breakdown of costs and revenues.
Something was also amiss with the silent auctions. Liz stipulated that she wanted minimum bids for a number of expensive donated items. Instead, TGP started bidding at $10, she alleged.
"A lot of these vendors who donated for my daughter's health were appalled," she said.
Bin An, whose family owns Sakura restaurant, said the items his business donated for Desirae--a World Series bat, ball and jersey signed by former Arizona Diamondbacks player Luis Gonzalez--were worth about $4,500 in total. When told TGP started their bidding at $10 and had let them go for $35, $45 and $75, respectively, An's response was a simple: "Wow."
The auction turned out to be a bargain hunter's wildest dream come true. A baseball signed by Arizona Diamondbacks players, valued at $500, went for $10; a juvenile-sized guitar and amplifier, valued at $200, went for $70; two rounds of golf with the use of a cart, valued at between $160 and $300, went for $25. The first bid for a custom automobile paint job was $10, even though Liz said she asked for a minimum bid of $600.
Incidentally, the silent-auction bid sheets provided by Liz also show that Wafer, with his $75 bid, had been the lucky winner of the $900 jersey, which was the most expensive of the World Series donations.
Fortunately, many of the items, including all of the World Series memorabilia, were returned to Liz after she raised a fuss.
In characteristic fashion for TGP when confronted with something that might not portray them in a flattering light, a woman answering phones at the park office said General Manager Chris McConnell was "in a meeting" after asking who was calling. McConnell didn't return a message left with the woman or a subsequent call the next day. The media have frequently noted TGP's silence in the Favreau case.
Liz said both Wafer and McConnell had also given her the silent treatment after handing over an itemized cost and revenue breakdown on July 19. There were a number of things that didn't add up on the list, Liz said.
First, the Perezes understood that the difference between the $6.50 cost of the Mexican buffet and the $10 clubhouse charge would go toward Desirae's care. However, the itemized list shows 202 dinners were sold at $6.50 apiece in both the revenue and expense columns, meaning the Perezes made nothing on the meals. The remaining $3.50 per meal is nowhere to be found.
Second, the Perezes were charged the full $1,332 cost for the Tucson Weekly ad. The advertising contract, which was supplied by Liz, is signed by McConnell and lists Wafer as a contact.
Liz was also incredulous about TGP's claim that only 1,309 raffle tickets were sold for a chance to win a TV set. She said her family alone had sold that many, and that approximately 7,000 had been printed.
According to the itemized breakdown, the Perezes made a measly $683 at the benefit. Liz said her family, with seven children living at home, "easily" put that much of their personal money into the event in hopes of raising enough to reimburse themselves. In effect, they broke even--at best.
Remarkably, Liz doesn't seem to be bitter about the TGP debacle. She's had two fundraisers since then, and Desirae is showing signs of improvement after starting her treatments.
"Of course, it's my child's life, and I'm going to do anything to extend that," Liz said. "When we have an outcome like this, it breaks my heart, but it doesn't discourage me."