During Monday’s city commission meeting in St Augustine, Historic City News editor Michael Gold addressed the mayor and commissioners to call attention to money being paid by city taxpayers so that department heads and their spouses can attend the $400.00 per couple Menendez Noche de Gala.
The elaborate black-tie evening of dinner, drinks, theater and dancing, is ostensibly a fund raiser to benefit the Lightner Museum. The ticket and sponsorship money is paid to Kessler’s Flagler Resort, the Casa Monica Hotel.
“We are going to help the Noche de Gala procession only by paying reenactors, giant head maintenance, etc,” according to Tourist Development Council Executive Director, Glenn Hastings, in a statement to Historic City News today.
Acting as a “450th Alliance Partner”, the Casa Monica has been permitted to use the city’s 450th logo; paid for by local taxpayers. Its use has confused some readers who have been misled into believing that the City of St Augustine is producing the event. That is not the case.
“The budget is $6,000,” Hastings clarified. “This is not being done through the city.”
Menendez Noche de Gala is a private function, privately produced, and the tax-deductible status of the tickets is questionable.
City Attorney, Isabelle Lopez, responded to Mayor Nancy Shaver’s request for comments after Gold raised his concerns. City Manager John Regan, who receives the $400 tickets at no charge, did not comment. Lopez believes that the city has not violated its own ordinances by purchasing the tickets for selected employees; comparing the gala to seminars or professional activities for employees that are typically reimbursed. Lopez and her husband also receive the $400 tickets without charge.
Mayor Shaver told Historic City News that she will attend the Gala, but that she has paid for her own tickets.