The party’s over for First America Foundation
The night before your party, you have the nightmare. You’re all dressed up, waiting at the door and not a single guest arrives. St. Augustine’s 450th birthday party nightmare might just be a reality.
On June 4, Don Wallis, the chairman of the board of the First America Foundation resigned. Following suit, the foundation voted June 10 to terminate its contract with the city.
So how did it happen?
Established in July 2010, the First America Foundation was formed by Wallis, an attorney with Upchurch, Bailey and Upchurch in St. Augustine. Its sole purpose: to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the founding of the first permanent settlement in America, St. Augustine.
In August 2010, Wallis told the St. Augustine City Commission that the committee originally tasked with planning the 450th unanimously agreed to sunset the 450th Commemoration Steering Committee, turn planning efforts over to The First America Foundation and contract the City of St. Augustine as a governmental contributor.
“The city municipal government, by a 5-0 vote, decided to get out of the business of the commemoration,” Wallis told the Underground in November 2010.
At that time, the commission approved a contract with the First America Foundation for $275,000. The contract stated, “The city hereby contracts with the foundation for work to render professional planning and design and development services related to the St. Augustine commemoration program.” The contract further indicates that the $275,000 serves as seed money required for the commencement of the work on the project.
In an article in The St. Augustine Record June 11, foundation Vice Chairwoman Christine Chapman said she wasn’t sure what the future of the nonprofit organization was, but board members planned to meet with city officials to discuss what remained of the $275,000 seed money.
In the same article, City Manager John Reagan said, “The (foundation) staff was in a very difficult situation. They amount of work they had to do was way beyond the capacity of any one individual. I don’t know what will happen to the First America Foundation, but we’ll stay positive, and we will have a 450th celebration.”
and Sarah A. Henderson