Wednesday, May 25, 2011

450th secrecy questioned

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450th secrecy questioned
Created 05/24/2011 - 12:01am
First America Foundation chair: 'We'll open party committee meetings'

First America Foundation -- hired to produce the 450th anniversary bash and three other celebrations -- hasn't accomplished what it promised or what its contract demands, St. Augustine city officials said Monday.

At a workshop Monday, City Manager John Regan told the City Commission that he will have to monitor the foundation's performance over the next few months.

"If it works, great. If it doesn't, we'll need to re-evaluate (our relationship)," Regan said. "But we cannot remain with the status quo."

The commissioners said they were "concerned" that FAF board members or employees are reportedly not permitted to speak about foundation business without first getting written permission from Chairman Don Wallis.

Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman praised the foundation's 25 board members as service-oriented professionals of the highest quality and integrity.

"I don't know how many times Mr. Wallis said the word 'transparency' before we gave him ($275,000) in August," Freeman said. "But this is not a transparent organization.

Wallis admitted late Monday that he did admonish his board not to speak on behalf of the FAF.

"Only (Foundation Executive Director) Jamie (Alvarez) and our four corporate officers may do so," he said. "If each one of our 25 board members had the authority to run around and make commitments and say things, we'd be a really disorganized organization."

Other concerns were that their board meetings are closed to the public.

Wallis, interviewed two hours later via telephone, said the Foundation has decided that its eight "working committees" will be open to the public and non-board members will sit on those committees.

One theme that constantly circled was the apparent lack of energy or progress by FAF.

Mayor Joe Boles read a list of projects that FAF should have begun or at least considered by now.

These include hiring a graphic artist and creating a logo to use on trademarked items such as commemorative coins, a 450th postage stamp and a St. Augustine 450th license tag, plus the other bric-a-brac, such as mugs, key chains, plates and T-shirts, similar to those sold at major sporting events.

"We can't control souvenir sales, but we can control the sale of those items with our logo on it," Boles said.

He also suggested adding smaller but historically significant displays such as the Second Spanish Period, showcasing the railroad's role in St. Augustine -- possibly to be celebrated on Henry Flagler's birthday -- or marking the arrival of the Minorcan survivors from the Turnbull colony at New Smyrna.

His list also included holding events on the city's parking garage rooftop, exploring a St. Augustine Museum of Modern Art, building perimeter parking garages, expanding St. Augustine's Sister Cities program by adding municipalities in Great Britain and France, and parking at the unnamed park on Riberia Street's south end.

Boles even suggested that having an astronaut on the federally-appointed St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission could create a possible link to NASA.

Freeman said, "I lack confidence that these programs will go forward under FAF. I question whether we should move forward with the FAF at all."

Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline had similar concerns.

"Clearly somebody has to provide clear and very visible leadership, and at least create an action plan, a business plan and a calendar," she said. "The strategic plan of the FAF is still in draft form. That concerns me. Also, the foundation's board meetings have decreased from monthly to every other month."

Wallis said that decrease was only for the full 25-member board.

"We've switched gears from having business done by the full board to having it done by board committees, which meet continuously," he said.

Commissioner Errol Jones wanted to form an inclusive "Black Ribbon Committee" where he'd talk to city residents, then come back to the board and report what the community wants.

His suggestions included restoring the old Garden Club building near the Main Library, saying, "It's been sitting too long condemned."

And he thought the former market at 102 Bridge St. would make a good exhibition space.

Sikes-Kline wants the city to have a "sense of arrival," to have the city beautified, see the city's archeological program spotlighted and Lincolnville revitalized.

She'd like the FAF "to renegotiate their contract, maybe as a starting point. I'd like them to stay with us. (But) they need some help."

Regan said the foundation has said it is willing to renegotiate the contract.

Wallis confirmed that late Monday, saying, "We all understand the frustration and impatience of the city. (But) I believe the city and the First America Foundation will be able to work really, really well with one another."

Comments (10)
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By cptnbuzz | 05/24/11 - 07:35 am

Any board member should be able to make any comments at any time. The fact that they are not allowed to do so shows the lack of leadership and cohesiveness in this organization being funded by taxpayers.

"In God We Trust"

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A Three Ring Circus
By martinpryor | 05/24/11 - 10:17 am

There is no way this "dog and pony" show will ever evolve into a credible organization and produce a Colonial Saint Augustine version of the James Town Celebration. What happened to the involvement of the former mayor of Williamsburg? When you have clowns running the show don't be surprised when it becomes a circus.

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Poor choice
By NEFLNative | 05/24/11 - 09:58 am

Very poor choice of leadership for this group. While chairman of the Chamber of Commerce the organization was basically devastated under his control. Time for changes to this "little group" before it is too late.


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Count Me In
By albink | 05/24/11 - 06:27 pm

OK, I will be happy to be a non-board member on one of the committees and will also be available to be hired for photography of the city. Contact me at albink(at)

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Hire a firm with experience
By Citygal | 05/24/11 - 06:37 pm

It is time for the City to cut it's losses and get out of this one sided contract while there is still time to hire a "real" firm. A firm with a track record, and who will submit a bill after the work is done, and not expect payment before they start.

City Gal

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By bornandraisedhere | 05/24/11 - 08:45 pm

Long enough. Where is the accounting for the money? Bad idea from the beginning. Don Wallis bad boy bad boy.

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By hearmeroar | 05/24/11 - 09:20 pm

Don Wallis is not at fault for keeping his 25-person board silent. It is entirely within the rights of a not-for-profit to do this. In fact, usually there is ONE spokesperson for such an organization. This is to keep the facts, policy, decisions, etc., clear. Wallis is not advocating secrecy. Anyone on the City Commission should know this, many of them having served on such boards themselves.

The "business" of the FAF is NOT to design a logo. Goodness, Mayor Boles, re-read the contract! The job of the 450th is to present four events. For all the talking everyone seems to be doing about "community involvement," why not actually INVOLVE them?

The logo: Flagler College has a great arts department. Create a competition to design the logo. That's an entire demographic not tapped. Fund-raise--or board members could each kick in $20--for a $500 grand prize. The student gets some bucks and bragging rights!

The City entered into this contract with the FAF to remove it from City responsibility. Don't you remember John Regan telling the Commission that, "We have to really MOVE on this!" Meaning, the City can't seem to pull it together, so let's get a foundation to get it done.

You got what you wanted. Now allow the FAF to operate. Granted, the Foundation is not built around speed. But you have tremendous interference by the City--and if you think that doesn't make for bad relations do guess again.

Peter Guinta again misreported. Jamie Alvarez is ACTING Exec. Dir. The board has not yet moved on hiring a permanent director; salary is at issue. (Will there be any $$$ left in the pot given by the City after this hire? Rethink this one.) Plus, Ms. Alvarez continues to hold sway over this group for any number of indefinable reasons. The FAF needs to dump her. She has multiple alliances. She's not experienced or equipped to have such power. She can TALK. That's it.

The LAST THING the FAF needs is a bunch of irate, misinformed citizens scrutinizing its every move by being admitted to every meeting. That's absurd. No better way to tank the organizatiion, which appears to be what the City wishes to do.

The City needs to be in the business of running the city, not running nonprofits, not finding exhibit space for travelling museum exhibits. Everyone seems to have lost his head.

If any readers think the FAF board et al. does not realize its failings, then you, the reader, is in error. They all know full well. Let them alone to do the work. If they sink, they sink. There really is no reason for them to be in existence after 2015 anyhow.

But don't you really hope they swim? I do.

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Except The Monies Spent
By paradisefl1 | 05/24/11 - 10:20 pm

hearmeroar. Seriously If people /taxpayer's don't get their money's worth they have more than enough ammo.. 275,000?? Really..

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Huh? For What???
By hearmeroar | 05/25/11 - 09:37 am

"enough ammo"--What do you propose, shooting the board? "enough ammo" for WHAT???

Lest we forget about $$$: The $275K is peanuts compared to the total amount given to the Dept. of Heritage Tourism/Dana Ste. Claire, director. THAT'S the money I want an accounting of.

Back to the FAF... Annual reports of all nonprofits are available for public viewing. This group made same available at its January press conference. Plus, you can get a copy by asking. You might be charged for photocopying, but that's minimal if you REALLY want to see where the money has gone thus far. It's mostly staff salaries, supplies, services.

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they have more than enough ammo..
By me | 05/25/11 - 02:49 pm

"Seriously If people /taxpayer's don't get their money's worth they have more than enough ammo.. " do what?

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