The St. Augustine 450th commemoration was saved from disaster thanks to halting our City's Sunshine and Open Records violations -- the First America Foundation, created in 2010 with City funds by then-Mayor JOE BOLES and his satellites for the express purpose of "running the 450th" without Suhshine and Open Records compliance. Eighteen residents, represented pro bono by the Holland & Knight LLP law firm, helped stop this outrage. Thank you and happy 450th birthday!
Ex-Mayor JOSEPH BOLES created "FIRST AMERICA FOUNDATION" with our money for the express purpose of avoiding and evading Sunshine and Open Records laws and running the 450th.
We, the People stopped this unlawful theft and conversion of government funds, thanks to the law firm of Holland & Knight and partners George Gabel and Suzanne Judas.
As Folio Weekly observed, "FIRST AMERICA FOUNDATION" founder DON WALLIS, UPCHURCH BAILEY & UPCHURCH tax partner, had never run a children's birthday party before but was given $300,000 in City of St. Augustine funds to run our 450th. It was illegal, unseemly, and helped cost Mayor JOE BOLES the 2014 election.
Eighteen of us hired WALLIS' former law firm (Holland & Knight) and the result was that the "FIRST AMERICA FOUNDATION" ceased to exist, handing back some $200,000, with nothing to show for the $100,000 it wasted. (Something else badly in need of audits and federal criminal investigation for possible HOBBS ACT violations.)
Other than museum-quality exhibits, the 450th languished, spending money without limit ($400,000 on no-bid hyper screens), while neglecting substance and planning.
Enter Nancy Shaver, elected Mayor on November 4, 2014, the day before her 68th birthday, after living here only five years. She was the voice of reason, the voice of data-driven decisions, the voice of change in our Nation's Oldest City. She ran the numbers and knew that the 450th was flummery. (Her fellow Commissioners pouted, particularly LEANNA FREEMAN (R-LEN WEEKS CONSTRUCTION), who repeatedly heckled, harassed and hazed Mayor Shaver, "Is this meeting over? Is this meeting over? Do I have three votes to move forward?
Enter Ryan Murphy and the St. Johns County Amphitheater staff -- they know how to throw a party and entertain people, more than 50 times a year. Ironically, their jobs were almost outsourced to a shady outfit called "Signature," which likewise had no experience. (That's what Republicans do -- outsource jobs and no-bid contracts to their cronies, and that's what you got from the County and City for years).
In January 2015, St. Augustine's Mayor Nancy Shaver asked a series of pointed questions about the City's being ill-prepared for the 450th, whose political patronage leadership (PRIMA DANA, a/k/a "DANA STE. CLAIRE of PONTE VEDRA BEACH), was not up to the task.
Result: we all had a good time at the 450th. Disaster was avoided.
Privatization of core government functions may be unconstitutional, destroys transparency and it wastes money.
Rejecting privatization -- ending THE FIRST AMERICA FOUNDATION -- saved the day. Not corporations. Government -- specifically, Police Chief Loran Lueders and Ryan Murphy deserve applause -- let's give these two guys a hand!
Always remember who was at the scene of the crime when Mayor JOE BOLES created THE FIRST AMERICA FOUNDATION in 2010 for the express purpose of avoiding and evading Sunshine and Open Records laws -- City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E., Commissioners DONALD CRICHLOW, ERROL JONES, NANCY SIKES-KLINE and LEANNA FREEMAN:
The Steering Committee consisted of:
Dr. William Abare, President, Flagler College, St. Augustine
Joseph Boles, Mayor, City of St. Augustine
Major General Douglas Burnett, Adjutant General, Florida National Guard
Charles Ellis, Vice President, Fort Mose Historical Society
Gordon Wilson, Superintendent, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, U.S. National Park Service
Dr. Michael Gannon, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History, University of Florida
Glenn Hastings, Executive Director, Tourist Development Council.
Joseph Joyner, Superintendent, St. Johns County School District
Loran Lueders, Chief, St. Augustine Police Department
David Shoar, Sheriff, St. Johns County
Cyndi Stevenson, Chair, St. Johns County Commission
Don Wallis, Chair, St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce
Doug Wiles, former member of the Florida House of Representatives, District 20
Tom Willis, Pastor, Cathedral-Basilica
Brud Helhoski, Mayor, City of St. Augustine Beach
General Consul of Spain (currently Santiago Cabanas)
Her Majesty’s General Consul (currently Keith Allen)
President, Spain-Florida Foundation (currently Emilio Sanchez)