First America looking for a new director

In what has become a lightning rod for controversy, Historic City News has received a letter from First America Foundation Chairman Don Wallis, which was sent to the somewhat clandestine Board of Directors of that organization; indicating that the search for an Executive Director is on, again.

Historic City News was first to report on September 10, 2010, that, what was at that time, the newly created First America Foundation, Inc., funded with $275,000 in City of St. Augustine reserve funds, was already advertising to spend nearly half of that money to recruit a new Executive Director. The City would later give an additional $25,000 to the foundation; bumping the total taxpayer contribution to $300,000.

Jamie's Story in her own words
The foundation had already hired former Heritage Tourism employee Jamie E. Alvarez, and, subsequently, a second paid employee, Laura Cryan. As of Friday, April 22nd, the foundation was back down to a “staff-of-one”, according to the Wallis memorandum.

Alvarez resigned her position in the Department of Heritage Tourism effective Monday August 9, 2010, according to Human Resources Manager, Nancy A. Rawson. “She worked and was paid for that day,” Rawson said. “She was dropped from the payroll as of that date.” At the time of her resignation, Alvarez was earning $30,728.51 per year.

Local Upchurch, Bailey and Upchurch attorney, Don Wallis, who is the Chairman and incorporator of First America Foundation, Inc., was listed as the contact person in the job listing on the website of the “Nonprofit Jobs Cooperative” — a listing that, with some degree of mystery, disappeared after being reported.

The cooperative who advertised the foundation’s “Executive Director” position is a collaboration of nonprofit management centers from across the United States. Their goal is to provide a one-stop source for job seekers to search for nonprofit jobs, and for employers to easily publish job opportunities within specific regions.

This was the content of the original ad that disappeared:

Executive Director
First America Foundation, Inc.

Work closely with Board Chair of newly formed and funded organization with a specific, narrow and unusual mission.

Local (St. Augustine, FL) focus with national and international implications.

Must be able to help Board rapidly complete its strategic planning process and then design, hire, manage, lead and direct the staff that will implement that plan.

Salary: $100K+

Location: St. Augustine Florida 32084

Contact Information
Contact Donald Wallis
Address 780 North Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Phone 904-673-1608

Copyright © 2004 – 2010 Center for Nonprofit Management

It was announced by First America Foundation, at about the same time as the job listing disappeared, that Alvarez would be assuming the “interim” position of Executive Director; however, at later meetings and appearances, some of which were attended by Wallis, Alvarez was introduced as “Executive Director”. According to the Wallis letter, Alvarez actually became Executive Director in February of this year. Her new and interim salaries have not been publicly disclosed, but were reported to Historic City News to be $65,000 per year.

Wallis stated at a January 26th meeting that during the “consideration period” the Board had been soliciting and encouraging 23 year-old Alvarez to take the believed $100,000+ a year position. Alvarez turned 24 the following day. Now Wallis reveals, in his memorandum, what purports to be Alvarez’ “own words” regarding her performance in that position.

Citing a lack of “resources” and “proper staff support”, Alvarez reportedly said that she could not make a success of the foundation alone. She described her efforts by saying that she “recognized that it just isn’t the best fit for the Foundation.”

So, in what has been a recurring fiasco of false starts, once again, we find First America Foundation “starting over” in their search for a new executive.

Ten months ago, the City contracted with First America Foundation, Inc. to provide planning and coordination of the 450th Commemoration of St. Augustine’s founding in 2015, to plan a 200-year anniversary of the 1812 Spanish Constitution, a 500th celebration of the 1513 landing of Ponce de Leon and a 50-year anniversary, in 2014, commemorating the 1964 signing of the Civil Rights Act.

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News

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