When the St. Augustine City Manager’s office called Historic City News Editor Michael Gold, they were happy to report that they got the $150,000 check promised by Christine Chapman; who, for the past two weeks; has served as chairwoman of First America Foundation, Inc.
The City is still waiting for Chapman to turn over files, project and sponsor data, forms and plans, institutional knowledge and programs already in development; a promise she made in a meeting with City Manager John Regan on Monday.
In a public workshop held May 23rd, Regan made it clear to commissioners and senior staff that the City of St. Augustine is “moving forward” with commemoration plans for signature events and marketing — with or without First America Foundation.
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.
First America never completed the first event.
In a move that was highly unusual, unexplained and sharply criticized, the City turned over a lump-sum payment of $275,000, in advance, for the services that were to be provided over the upcoming four years — plus, a $25,000 check due the City from Bridge of Lions contractor Tidewater-Skanska.
After Regan announced the “new direction” the City was taking, former Foundation Chairman and incorporator Donald W. Wallis, an attorney with Upchurch, Bailey and Upchurch, convened what would be his last board meeting in that capacity.
According to our sources, Wallis demanded that the Board hire a professional fundraiser to serve as Executive Director; a position that had been held by a 24 year-old former Heritage Tourism employee, Jamie E. Alvarez.
Wallis wrote to his board, “for many months now, you have been expecting each of us — especially Jamie — to lead our organization, its Board of Directors and each of you, and to act on behalf of our organization with the rest of the world.”
Prior to the board meeting, Wallis reveals, in a 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.”
The Board bucked Wallis — saying that they did not want to hire a new executive director.
Unfortunately, Historic City News has learned, Wallis had already instructed St. Augustine resident Robert Michael Holtzman to hire an attorney to draft a contract to fill the position. Holtzman, who will not be hired, is currently demanding that the Foundation repay his legal expenses.
Wallis resigned as Chairman but remained as a director of the Foundation. Subsequently, the remaining board members made the decision to terminate the contract with the City and to disband the organization. In Monday’s meeting with Regan, the contract was officially terminated.
Foundation Treasurer Matt Baker has stated in published reports that the bank account will be reconciled within thirty days of the close of business June 30th and that any money that remains will be turned back over to the City at that time. We left word on Baker’s voice mail asking to verify the statement. We have not received his confirmation; as of this time.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News archive photograph