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December timeline for ST Aerospace MOU

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I thought it might be helpful to have a timeline of this month’s events regarding the MOU with ST Aerospace. The sequence of press releases and statements made to the media is significant.

Thursday, Dec. 5
Scott Luth, Greater Pensacola Chamber VP for economic development, asks the Escambia County Commission to reallocate $10 million for Project Stallion, which we have now learned is ST Aerospace (STA).

The commissioners instructed their chairman, Lumon May, and Interim County Administrator George Touart to meet with the city and work out how the city can repay the money to be taken from the Local Option Tax fund.

Somewhere around this time, according to my sources, STA officials contacted the chamber and said they were ready to come over to Pensacola to sign the MOU. The city instructs the chamber not let the county know about the meeting.

Tuesday, Dec. 17
Mayor Ashton Hayward cancels two meetings (first for 9:30 am, second for 3 pm) with county officials on the $10 million.

Instead Hayward, Chamber and STA meet and the mayor and STA sign a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding that says Escambia County will contribute $8 million to the project.

Chamber asks that the mayor to hold off making any announcements until they can discuss the MOU with the county and secure the $8 million.

At 6 p.m. Hayward issues this press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2013
Contact: Tamara Fountain, Communications Administrator
(850) 436.5627
Hayward Enters Into Lease Negotiations to Bring Aerospace Company to Pensacola International Airport

Today Mayor Hayward signed a Memorandum of Understanding between ST Aerospace, Mobile, Inc. and the City of Pensacola. The non-binding MOU is the culmination of 18 months of joint efforts to build the aerospace industry in Pensacola. Hayward said, “We have aggressively been courting this company and the aerospace industry. It has been a pleasure to work with Joseph Ng and his team. We look forward to the next steps in lease negotiations.”

ST Aerospace’s primary business activity is the maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft. Plans include locating a satellite operation inside Pensacola International Airport Commerce Park and would bring a minimum of 300 new jobs to Pensacola.

I happened to be with Assistant County Administrator Larry Newsom when I got the press release. He was completely stunned because the mayor had told the county when he canceled the 3 p.m. meeting that he would wait to discuss the issue after the holidays.

At 8:30 pm Escambia County sent out this announcement:

The following is a statement from Escambia County Commission Chairman Lumon May regarding the City of Pensacola’s ST Aerospace Announcement:

“I support economic growth and job creation in Escambia County. I have not been party to the City’s negotiations nor am I familiar with the details of the MOU. I look forward to working with the Mayor and the Chamber as this project evolves. And to discussing this issue with my colleagues on the Commission when we meet in January.”

Wednesday, Dec. 18

The Mayor gets front-page coverage in the News Journal.

City Council members tell me that they had no knowledge of the MOU and had not been contacted by the mayor’s office or the city administrator.

The Independent News and Escambia County Attorney both requested copies of the MOU.

At 2:45 pm Pensacola City Council members were sent the following announcement (which most had already read in the PNJ):

To: City Council Members
From: Mayor Ashton Hayward
Date: December 18, 2013
Re: Entering into Lease Negotiations to Bring Aerospace Company to Pensacola International Airport

The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you that I have signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding between ST Aerospace, Mobile, Inc. and the City of Pensacola for the purpose of entering negotiations for the leasing of airport property.

ST Aerospace’s primary business activity is the maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft.

The Chamber issues to the media a statement by Luth:

“While this is definitely a collaborative effort between the city, the airport, the county and the chamber, Project Stallion is a city-led project located on city-owned assets. Although, it was the chamber’s understanding that we would be given sufficient time to brief the county on the details of the MOU, as well as a heads up that the city would be issuing a statement, getting to the point of a signed MOU is wonderful news for our community.”

On WEAR 3, Hayward denies the commissioners weren’t briefed on the MOU. He doesn’t mention the $8 million that he committed them to contribute to the project.

Thursday, Dec. 19

News Journal reports on the criticism of Hayward’s rash announcement. Hayward tells the paper:

The county has been briefed on this project for the past 18 months. They discussed it at their committee of the whole meeting recently. And we’ve always wanted the county to be part of the deal.

At 12:30 pm we are told the MOU is confidential:

12/19/2013

Publisher Richard Outzen

RE: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST of 12/18/2013 for:
The Independent News requests a copy the memorandum of understanding between ST Aerospace, Mobile, Inc. and the City of Pensacola that was announced yesterday. Thank you. Richard Outzen Publisher, Independent News (850) 438-8115 rick@inweekly.net
Reference # W000194-121813

Dear Richard Outzen,

In response to your Public Records request for the MOU between ST Aerospace Mobile, Inc. and the City of Pensacola, this document is exempt from FS 119 in accordance with FS 288.075(2)(a)1. If a private corporation, partnership, or person requests in writing before an economic incentive agreement is signed that an economic development agency maintain the confidentiality of information concerning plans, intentions, or interests of such private corporation, partnership, or person to locate, relocate, or expand any of its business activities in this state, the information is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution for 12 months after the date an economic development agency receives a request for confidentiality or until the information is otherwise disclosed, whichever occurs first.

I have attached a PDF copy of the confidentiality agreement for your review. Until the City of Pensacola is released from this confidentiality agreement, this Public Records request must be considered non-responsive and will be closed. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need any additional information.

Thank you for using the City of Pensacola Sunshine Center.

Sincerely,
Jane G. Ballard

At 2 pm the MOU is released:

12/19/2013

Publisher Richard Outzen

RE: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST of 12/18/2013 for:
The Independent News requests a copy the memorandum of understanding between ST Aerospace, Mobile, Inc. and the City of Pensacola that was announced yesterday. Thank you. Richard Outzen Publisher, Independent News (850) 438-8115 rick@inweekly.net
Reference # W000194-121813

Dear Richard Outzen,

As a show of good faith, ST Aerospace has given the City of Pensacola permission to release the MOU. I have attached it for your review. Please let me know if you have any problems viewing this file or require any additional information.

Thank you for using the City of Pensacola Sunshine Center.

Sincerely,
Jane G. Ballard

Meanwhile Tamara Fountain, the mayor’s spokesperson, tells Pensacola Digest: “Of course we are still hoping that the county wants to participate. But if they for some reason can’t provide that money, we have some other options lined up for funding.”

To which county officials told me privately, “then why do you need $8 million from us?”