Monday, June 16, 2014

Sweetheart Lease Terms for 81 St. George Street (Florida Cracker Cafe and Savannah Sweets)

Just got a copy from the City Attorney today of the City's 1989 lease for 81 St. George Street, and 1994 addendum, between the City and ex-Mayor CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR. and Mayor JOSEPH LEROY BOLES, JR.).
No response on the subleases (between the Mayor and ex-Mayor and their subtenants, who operate Savannah Sweets and the Florida Cracker Cafe).
The lease is an unusual document.
The initial rent was a pittance.
The lease was initially written to run from 1989 and expired in 2009. The initial rent was $100/month for the first ten years and $750/month for the second ten years. An addendum was agreed to in 1994, saying the base rent "is to be determined," providing for increases.
The current rent is only $1331.21.
The City of St. Augustine owns the property.
After paying some $177,000 to construct the building on City land, once planned for a park, the lessees were allowed to profit handsomely from it for a quarter of a century.
This is no "public-private partnership."
This is what Philip M. Stern called "The Rape of the Taxpayer."
Ordinarily, retail leases include a provision giving the landlord a percentage of retail receipts, typically 2%. Not this one.
These one-percenters are not paying 2% of their gross receipts as part of the rent.
The City gave up the right to have this land for a park. The Mayor and ex-Mayor are profiting to the tune of how much each month?
We don't know because their subleases have not yet been disclosed by them or the City.
Ordinarily, there's more depth and breadth to a lease, and lots of clauses to protect against lots of contingencies.
This is a very short one. Especially short for a commercial lease.
There are college dormitory leases, or leases for one room efficiencies, that are more protective of the landlord!
There's no security deposit. None.
(Our City was long in the habit of signing commercial leases without security deposits, including the lease for the Lighthouse Restaurant).
Ordinarily, leases are negotiated at arm's length. There's no indication who drafted the lease. Odd.
The lease in quo was approved "as to form" by the City Attorney at the time, none other than GEOFFREY B. DOBSON, who simultaneously represented our City of St. Augustine as City Attorney while representing the likes of dodgy land-raping developers, like PIERRE THOMPSON.
GEOFFREY DOBSON and then-partner RONALD WAYNE BROWN represented PIERRE THOMPSON at the same time PIERRE THOMPSON got the City to annex land on Anastasia Island, along SR312.
Did GEOFFREY DOBSON and RONALD WAYNE BROWN represent both lessee and lessor on 81 St. George Street -- both CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR., JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, JR. AND the City of St. Augustine?
The lease does not say.
But we do know that when our Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County leased a building from the Town of Hastings, DOBSON represented both governments in the lease deal. Not exactly arm's length. Not exactly Kosher.
Call it "St. Johns County Rules."
It's not quite "Green Acres" or "Hooterville."
It's more like the motto that Mike Royko made up for the legendarily corrupt City of Chicago under Mayor Richard J. Daley: "UBO EST MEA?" (Where's mine?)
This may also not be a properly executed lease, as the three witnesses are all the same person, the City Clerk at the time. Perhaps the lease was void ab initio and void or voidable as not properly witnessed AND as contrary to public policy. Time will tell.
The law partner of GEOFFREY B. DOBSON was once RONALD WAYNE BROWN. DOBSON & BROWN was hired twice as City Attorney (the law fired was hired first temporarily and then BROWN was hired permanently). The two hiring decisions were made by the City Commission during Sunshine violations in the fall of 2008. This was after the abrupt and possibly illegal firing of JAMES PATRICK WILSON as City Attorney after he applied for a job with St. Johns County.

Foonote: DOBSON & BROWN's erstwhile client, developer PIERRE THOMPSON, is most noted for: (a) being richer than Croesus and throwing his weight around; (b) being the grandson of the founder of the St. Augustine Record and (c) ordering a bald eagle nest tree cut down in October 2001 on Anastasia Island. After a spinal implant administered via the now-defunct Collective Press semi-monthly newspaper, the U.S. Department of Justice and the United States Attorney successfully prosecuted THOMPSON BROTHERS REALTY for this federal crime. The defendant agreed to pay some $300,000 an sixteen acres of property to the federal government.
Molesting a pair of bald eagles or his and her nest is still a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and it was at the time, the Endangered Species Act. Citizens are carefully watching construction companies, developers our Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County to make sure no one ever again molests any of our two dozen nesting bald eagle pairs here in St. Johns County.

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