Pensacola Politics

City missed deadline to apply for tax exemption for maritime park

June 18, 2013

The string of missteps continues for the Hayward administration. Thanks to records received from the Escambia County Property Appraiser Chris Jones, via a public record request, the Independent News has discovered that city staff failed to apply by the March 1 deadline for an ad valorem tax exemption for the Maritime Park.

In fact, the Property Appraiser’s office had been trying to get information on the leases at the park and other city facilities, such as the airport and port, since Oct. 1, 2012. Repeated request for information went unanswered.

Finally, Chris Jones sent in a public record request of his own in March 14 for the Maritime Park. Even then, the city resisted handing over the information. Ed Spears, CMPA executive director, called the appraiser’s office the next day. According to records given the IN, he balked at giving the records to them because of the volume of work required to comply. JonesCMPA

Had the city staff complied with the early record requests, the CMPA might not have these tax problems. Another example how of the simplest daily operations are botched at city hall. Spearsnote

Also in the emails received was one from Mandy Bills, dated March 1, regarding the plat of the Maritime Park property. Apparently the city had never registered the plat or officially surveyed the individual parcels. The final plat was going to be finalized until mid-April. CMPAparcel

Unbelievable! The city needs to lease those parcels, but has not even done the most basic real estate steps to make them available.

BTW: I requested this exact information from the City at the same time I made the request of Chris Jones, June 10. The city has yet to provide the records. And I’ve not received the records regarding ECUA and the Main Street plant for the city either.

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  • joe June 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    First word in last sentence sums it up! Unbelievable.
    If they aren’t taking care of these routine matters how can any level of trust be placed in City and CMPA?

    I could be reading something wrong here but a few things standout re: this article.

    1. The City, and even NWFL baseball, (Studer’s people should have known better) failed to file some documents, with deadline dates, that directly relate to the amount of property and tangible tax assessed and owed.

    2. Some unhappy Esc county taxpayer will likely surface and make a well-founded issue about the lost revenue sitting on the waterfront

    3.Somebody should be held accountable for the omission that could cause the CMPA property to be taxed at full accessed value and though it may not be Ed Spears he should have been jumping through hoops to comply with tax accessor’s request.

  • deja vu all over again June 19, 2013 at 7:35 am

    The City and CMPA will continue to arrogantly violate public records law and refuse or frustrate requests because no governmental agency will enforce the law. You will need to file a lawsuit.

  • K Street kid June 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Might be A GOOD time for everyone to read “Straight A Leadership: Alignment, Action, Accountability”

  • Big fun June 18, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    This is what happens when everyone (mayor, city staff, CMPA Board, city council , park promoters) is in charge. The result is that no one is in charge and the ball gets dropped – again!

  • CJ Lewis June 18, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    The root cause of the perpetual confusion is that the CMPA does not function as real corporation and its quasi-Executive Director Ed Spears, a nice guy stuck in a horrible place, works for Mayor Ashton Hayward and not for the CMPA Board of Trustees. Spears has many times made it clear to me and others that he gets his marching orders from the Mayor, and the City Manager before him. In fairness to Spears, on his unique predicament as a City employee caught in this trap, he is in a lose-lose situation. The CMPA was in a position to hire its own Executive Director in 2007 and did not. That was a dumb and ill-advised move.

    Spears’ perhaps unavoidable conflicts of interest have led to a lot of problems to include the pencil-whipping of the project’s economic viability study never even begun but voted complete by the Council in May 2009. In response to my September 2009 public records request, City Manager Al Coby admitted that he did not have the study done. He tried to shift blame to his predecessor Tom Bonfield who threw it right back at him. Mayor Mike Wiggins and all the members of his City Council knew about the missing study problem before they unanimously voted the study complete and all were updated on Coby’s confession. None of them cared one bit and no one later uttered a peep suggesting the City Council take any corrective action or hold anyone accountable for the deception. Shame on all of them.

    Just as bad, a lot of far more extensive fuzzy thinking was involved in the City Council claiming that the project’s many Conditions Precedent had been satisfied in order to execute the Master Lease Agreement between the City and the CMPA. If the CMPA and Council had proceeded in a more prudent manner exercising just a little bit of fiscal caution, and actually used vice mostly ignored the CMPA’s Community Maritime Park Design Criteria Pattern Book, a copy still sitting mostly unread on the CMPA’s website, I think that everyone would have been forced to admit that the project’s four-story 976 parking structure was of paramount importance. It still is.

    The CMPA should have anticipated this document production requirement as far back as 2010 and had the documents in-hand and ready to go. The key aspect of the Community Maritime Park Project’s Omnibus Amendment dated May 17, 2010 reassigns ownership of the Public Improvements, to include the Multi-Use Stadium, from the City of Pensacola to the CMPA. Since at least 2010, the CMPA has known that it needed to provide whatever information the Property Appraiser was going to need to see to verify the tax exemptions.

    Section 2 of the Omnibus Amendment begins, “CMPA shall be solely responsible for payment of all costs of development, construction, operation and maintenance of the Project….” The payment of taxes would seem to fall under the heading of “operation.” The substantive part of Paragraph 9.e. reads, “The Parties intend that the Parcels of the Leased Property on which the Public Improvements are to be located be exempt from ad valorem taxation, as such improvements will be owned by Lessee [CMPA], which has been determined to be exempt from income tax under Section 501(a) of the Code and described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Code, and will be used for the charitable purposes of Lessee.”

    I still think the only effective way forward, until the CMPA can be dissolved in 2017, is for the City Council to replace the CMPA Board with itself and the Mayor. The Mayor can be the CMPA Chairman and the Council President can be the Vice-Chairman. Any existing CMPA Trustees worth keeping around can be assigned to one of the CMPA’s subordinate committees. Just as the CRA’s Administrator position is going away effective October 1, if you believe the proposed FY2014 Annual Budget document, so the CMPA’s Executive Director position could be abolished with all of the functions of the one-man CMPA “staff” formally divested among the city staff.

    While it is the CMPA, and not the City, that failed to follow through with the Property Appraiser, the “buck” ultimately stops with Hayward because, with respect to the Community Maritime Park, Hayward is the only person higher up in the chain-of-command responsible for everything Spears does or fails to do. The CMPA Board has no real power to fire Spears who does not really work for them. Through Spears, Hayward, who moonlights as a realtor on the side when he is not pretending to work as Mayor, is by default also ultimately accountable for the parcels not being platted and marketed to a national audience. Shame on him.

    When the Community Maritime Park “economic development” project’s unending snafu’s become an issue during the 2014 mayoral race, and they will be and especially when voters finally grasp the magnitude of the annual bond payments that will just keep on coming until 2040, it will likely be seen as Hayward’s political Waterloo where he overpromised and underperformed, as is his style. Hayward’s inattentiveness to the important details of municipal government is well known, and he seems to almost revel in his narcissistic aloofness, but in this case there’s a hefty price tag attached that the Tax Collector is going to insist be paid. Ouch!

  • simple stuff June 18, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    the only way to pay for that excessive cost would be intensive development of the site – not small buildings like the one proposed by Beck. Do the math.

  • EPenn June 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Hi there, that $25 million dollar site work was known about Trillium’s problems since it was abandoned and taken over by the city. The site was/is contaminated by potentially toxic materials, including arsenic and petroleum. It also was known that it carried a large mitigation cost some of which was to be done years ago.

  • Hi there June 18, 2013 at 11:09 am

    The financial viability of the project was shot at the moment someone agreed to the sitework price of $25 million. That killed the economics of the project. Was that figure included in a project budget for consideration and submitted prior to proceeding with financing, construction, etc as is usually done or was it an after the fact revelation as has been the case with most other aspects of this project?

  • William Lake June 18, 2013 at 10:49 am

    just remember you and your puppet masters supported this and helped get it off the ground. Hind sight is 20/20.

  • Ames June 18, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Typo alert…should say “believable”.
    The layers of malfeasance and neglect of duty lays deep and wide at the city of Pensacola. Are they paving over a big rotten stench?
    The good news is there should be some job opening announcements in a few days. How about tasking a couple of retired accountants, a retired physician and CJLewis to review the job applications and do the hiring?