Delay may be failed attempt to hide the city manager’s bad judgment

When Historic City News asked questions yesterday for our reporting of the latest selection of a private contractor to perform a function of city government by City Manager John Regan, we were left with too many unanswered questions to pass the truth-o-meter. Given Regan’s poor performance over the past 8-years in selecting vendors to inherit millions of dollars in payments from public funds, his lousy judgment immediately became suspect, so we dug deeper.

First, we looked at the process used to solicit a vendor. We obtained a copy of the Request for Proposals, the respondent’s list, and the staff evaluation scorecard as well as the final executed contract with T. BROWN CONSULTING GROUP, LLC.

We asked:

• Why would the city manager wait until October to reveal the city’s obligation?

• Why was city staff in the Planning and Building Department not able to manage one, and a part of two, long-established redevelopment areas?

• Who is going to manage the remainder of the city’s responsibilities on the Historic Transportation and Parking CRA?

The actual contract was signed by Tony T. Brown on February 21, 2018, and John Regan on March 9, 2018. The services were to commence within 15 days from the last date of the last signer to the contract, which would be March 24, 2018. But by that date, Brown had already received two pieces of bad news that Regan should have known through due diligence.

Tony Brown served as the executive director for Riviera Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency from 2010 until 2016. During his time in Riviera Beach, Brown oversaw the multi-million-dollar development of the city’s waterfront Marina Village. However, Brown was fired from the position. City Councilman and CRA board member Terence Davis explained that “he wanted someone who would take a different approach”.

Brown was hired next in Tallahassee. He became the consultant who would lead a development team for the Frenchtown Redevelopment Partners consisting of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and landowners with parcels along the 400 block of West Tennessee Street. The proposed redevelopment area includes the former homeless shelter site. However, earlier this year, before the March 24th start date in St Augustine, the Leon County Commission had severed their relationship with the mixed-use development project in Frenchtown. They decided that they needed to save millions of dollars in anticipation of the passage of a constitutional amendment this fall on homestead exemption that they say is likely to reduce property tax revenue — leaving the project’s future in jeopardy and uncertain.

By May of this year, T. Brown Consulting Group, LLC is a two-person “group” run from a loft inside the Brown residence on Amelia Island. The Nassau County company consists of two members, Tony Brown and his wife, Lawanda Brown.

The city manager has not discussed the Brown contract publicly with the city commission, and he won’t until this month for reasons that we find clear at this point.

On May 29, 2018 at approximately 1:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office responded to a gunshot call in American Beach at 95575 Burney Road, Fernandina Beach, the home of Tony and Lawanda Brown.

Nassau County Sheriff’s Office

Deputies arrived to observe a 58-year-old victim on the floor, lying in a pool of blood caused by a gunshot wound to the back of his head. Nassau County Fire Rescue arrived and provided emergency life-saving assistance, then stabilized the patient for transportation to UF Shands – Jacksonville.  Tony Brown was airlifted by Trauma One with critical injuries.

On investigation, deputies found a .38 caliber revolver on a dresser in the master bedroom. 57-year-old Lawanda Brown was interviewed at the scene, then arrested on charges of attempted murder. She was booked into the Nassau County Jail and held in lieu of $500,000 bond.

According to media and police reports, Tony Brown and Lawanda were working on their consulting business in the loft-office of their home. Tony asked Lawanda to perform a Google search to find a CRA template that he wanted to use in a project they were working on. Lawanda told police that she could hear a tone in her husband’s voice that led her to believe that he was not happy with how she was searching. She went on to say that “it was all a blur” as the victim started walking out of the loft, before he was shot.

Local Media and Police Reports

St Augustine’s new consultant, Tony Brown, was released from UF Shands-Jacksonville on Sunday June 3rd, 5-days after having successful surgery to remove the bullet from his skull. Still no word from Regan on the existence of this relationship.

A month later, on July 1st, Lawanda Brown was released from custody after posting a surety bond totaling $500,002.00, according to Nassau County Jail records. Still nothing from Regan.

No information is available if the couple have resumed living or working together. A trial date has not yet been set in this case. No word from Regan as to who will be doing the work on the city’s two Community Redevelopment Agencies.

More reference information provided by city staff is available at The Lincolnville CRA Fiscal 2018 budget, just completed September 30, 2018, was $833,028.36 and the Historic Area Transportation & Parking CRA budget for the same period was $715,592.00.

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