On July 13, 2010, Colin A. Bingham, who resides at 30 Fullerwood Drive, and Donald W. Wallis, an attorney with Upchurch, Bailey and Upchurch who resides at 3425 Lands End Drive in St. Augustine, incorporated First America Foundation, Inc.
On August 9th, the foundation executed a contract with the City that eventually netted them $300,000 in public funds, in advance, for loosely defined services to be performed over the coming five years.
By May 24, 2011, the City Manager informed a workshop of senior staff members and the five member mayor-commissioner board that he was prepared to make a “major policy shift” bemoaning the fact that nine months after deferring the task of planning four signature commemoration events to the much ballyhooed foundation, absolutely nothing of value has been received.
“First America just doesn’t seem to be in operational mode,” Regan observed. There were formerly two employees — interim executive director Jamie Alvarez and one paid staffer; Laura Cryan. As of Friday, April 22nd, the foundation was back down to a “staff-of-one”, according to a memorandum sent from Wallis to the First America Foundation board members.
Bingham attended the meeting at his own peril — if you rely on a sternly worded admonishment contained in an e-mail from Wallis that was received by Historic City News this week. “All volunteers, employees, prospective employees, contractors, vendors or providers of FAF are hereby forbidden to be present in the room for the workshop.”
Instead of being available to show concern or interest in honoring the many representations made by him before he took the city’s money, Wallis wrote “I will be watching in the comfort of my living room at home. Any of you who wishes to join me is cordially invited to do so.”
“If you simply are unable to stay away,” Wallis wrote, “please be reminded of your complete lack of legal or business authority to communicate on behalf of FAF, Inc.”
Historic City News editor Michael Gold forwarded the e-mail to our attorney for an opinion; what we got back was nothing short of astonishing. Wallis went on to caution “If you are in the room, and you get called on (or, even worse, you insinuate yourself into the conversation among the Commissioners and the City Manager) you are on your own.”
Bingham sat silently; unnoticed by some in attendance. He left immediately after the discussion concluded, and, although he was approached, he was not willing to speak “on the record” — following the demands of his co-incorporator. Or, perhaps, he was there to react if any other board members attempted to participate — after being forbidden by Wallis to do so.
Wallis made a closing threat to his board. “And if, in the aftermath, there appears to be no alternative way to repair whatever damage you may have done, you will be hung out to dry (as the saying goes).” Wallis reaffirmed his threat to embarrass directors who do not remain silent as included in his May 12th e-mail previously reported by Historic City News.
Bingham is the President of several companies in Northern Florida including Econowaste, Inc., Econosweep, Inc., Bingham Redevelopment and the Community Development Coalition Corporation, a Florida not-for-profit. These companies perform demolition, hauling, environmental remediation, site and utility contracting throughout the Southeast.
On July 21, 2010, in a workshop meeting with the City of St. Augustine Commission, Wallis represented that his purpose in creating the not for profit corporation was to provide a vehicle whereby private citizens could donate to help pay for the upcoming 450th Commemoration. According to papers filed with the Division of Corporations, First America Foundation was incorporated by Bingham and Wallis to be operated exclusively for charitable and educational purposes within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
The purposes of First America Foundation “shall be focused upon, and limited to, commemorating the 450th anniversary of the founding of the first permanent European settlement in America at the location now known as St. Augustine as well as the significance of St. Augustine and vicinity in the history of America — both before and after the founding.” Corporate documents say that such purposes shall include, but shall not be limited to, raising funds, employing staff, engaging the services of independent contractors, distributing property (including cash) to distributees that meet certain requirements and the funding of efforts, undertakings, events, activities and programs. Every distributee must be an organization that is both selected by the Board of Directors in its discretion and either a tax-exempt organization or a federal, state, or local government. Any distribution must be used for a public purpose.