In an eight-page letter from First America Foundation Chairman Donald W. Wallis that was obtained by Historic City News this week, the man, who one City Commissioner says has vanished into a “black hole”, gave a somewhat rambling personal account of himself since taking a total of $300,000 from city taxpayers.
In a May 4th memorandum, distributed on the stationary of a prestigious, eighty-six year old legal dynasty, Upchurch, Bailey and Upchurch, P.A., Wallis informed the appointed members of the First America Foundation board that he finds it “hard to believe” that, for nearly nine months, the organization has been “clumsily struggling to gain its footing”; comparing the missteps and apparent inaction of the foundation to a “newborn foal”.
As if shocked by the realization of what has been recited by many residents for months now, Wallis, who has tightly controlled and concealed from public view his lack of accomplishment and waste of taxpayer money, exclaimed “Really? YIKES‼ We have got to get going.”
A commissioner, who read the “memorandum” and asked not to be named, had only one word to say in reaction to Wallis late awakening remarks … “Duh!”
The letter labors over personal limitations and medical problems presumably suffered by Wallis over the past five months. In great and agonizing detail, Wallis provides an insight into possible reasons why, the better part of a year later, the City, as contractee, has nothing to show from First America Foundation, as the contractor.
When asked by Historic City News earlier this week, knowing that this information was going to be made public, numerous readers bristled at the apparent “dismissive” attitude that they say has been shown by Wallis in this and additional e-mails which, to some who offered opinions say, reveal a clandestine, domineering and arrogant abuse of his position, our money, and the people who have tried to get the foundation to account for measurable goals that ought to have been achieved.
In the memorandum Wallis says that expectations of the board for him and Executive Director Jamie Alvarez have been “realistic and appropriate”. Wallis admits that the “work” done by him and Alvarez, so far, has been “insufficiently emphatic, assertive, strong and quick” with respect to three items that he says are in varying stages of completion.
“More importantly,” Wallis wrote, “our effort has yet to produce any results, i.e. “deliverables” to any of our audiences or constituencies.”
Notwithstanding that, Wallis reveals what some are calling a “perplexing” point-of-view. Wallis tells 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.” In what one commissioner characterized as “bizarre” in this week’s workshop on the subject, Wallis says, “Now, measuring our own leadership performance to date against your expectations [we] feel that the leadership that we provided … no longer is sufficient to address either our immediate needs or our future needs. Consequently, we have concluded that First America Foundation, Inc. — and the Commemoration Effort that we were conscripted by our community to lead and coordinate — needs to change the way in which it is led, the way in which it is managed, the way in which it operates, and the way in which its human resources are identified, recruited, enlisted and empowered.”
Newspaper publisher Ron Davidson is a voting member of the First America Foundation board; he was in fact included in the e-mail distribution of this memorandum and has been present during press conferences and other meetings addressed by Alvarez, with or without Wallis. He is known to have attended and participated in the “closed door” meetings of the foundation thus far. A diligent search of articles that have appeared over the past nine months in his publication, The St. Augustine Record, has yet to reveal the now admitted lack of leadership, management or stewardship of over a quarter-million dollars in public funds.
Historic City News will continue to investigate and report on this story as we watch to see how successful the city will be in their re-invigorated commemoration efforts, the renegotiation of the contract, and, recovery of money paid in advance to First America Foundation.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer