Pensacola Politics

Document trail on Pitt Slip leases gives the behind-the-scenes view. Several of these are published here for first time

December 4, 2013

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As part of the investigation into the Independent News’ cover story, “How NOT To Do Business: City vs. The Fish House,” we gathered the letters and contracts regarding the Pitt Slip leases. Some of these documents have never be published or given to the media.

On April 10, 2000 Tom Bonfield asked the Pensacola City Council to consent to an absolute assignment of the entire Pitt Slip Marina Lease Agreement by Seville Harbour, Inc. to Merrill Land, LLC. – which the council approved. Bonfield’s memo included the actual documents the city would have signed to give consent. Read Bonfieldmemo

However, that did not happen. Instead the two companies asked for a partial assignment for only Parcel 1A that housed the Seville Harbour building, which the city staff denied. Therefore, Seville Harbour, Inc. and Merrill Land, LLC entered into a sublease with no assignments. Read MerrillLandSublease.

Note that the document has no signatures from the city consenting to any assignment. On the day of the sublease agreement, Seville Harbour signed an affidavit that he had the master lease for all the parcels – Affidavit.

Here is an example of what a partial assignment looks like: ExamplePartialAssign.

Then there is the much written about Pam Childers memo from Feb. 7, 2008 where she says Merrill Land has a sweetheart deal. What has not been released until now is City Attorney John Fleming’s response: “If the issue is simply whether the rent which the City is entitled to from its lessee is measured by gross sales of the lessee’s subleases, the answer is generally no.” Read EMAIL – P. Childers to J. Fleming – 2-7-08.

Here is another letter that I don’t think has been published. In October 2009, attorney Dan Lozier, on behalf of Seville Harbour, wrote assistant City Attorney Susan Woolf making clear of the intention to renew the leases. He asked to combine the parcels into one lease with the same expiration date in 2045. Susan Woolf never responded. Lozier asked again on Feb. 28, 2011 to discuss the leases. Woolf finally responded on March 3, 2011 saying that she had reviewed the 2009 letter. Read LozierOct192009.

In July 2011, the city received the letter renewing the leases – LTR – L. Cyr to City-Mayor – 7-21-11.

On Sept. 22, 2011, Interim City Attorney Jim Messer sent a letter saying that in his legal opinion the Cyr’s letter did not “constitute an automatic renewal.” This is letter has been published, but Messer does not say that is the official position of Mayor Ashton Hayward and the Pensacola City Council.
Read LTR – J. Messer to L. Cyr – 9-22-11.

What has not been published is Lozier’s response sent Messer on Oct. 11, 2011. He debunks Messer’s assertions and ends with: “Our client is happy to schedule a meeting to discuss future arrangements but is also content with the current arrangements. Our client stands by its earlier written notice of renewal.” Read Lozierrebuttal.

This was the last written communication between the city, its attorneys and Seville Harbour and its attorneys until Nix Daniel sent his letter on Nov. 15, 2013.

To verify this I sent the following email to Tamara Fountain, the mayor’s communications administrator:

From: Richard Outzen [mailto:rick@inweekly.net]
Sent: Monday, December 02, 2013 1:25 PM
To: Tamara Fountain
Subject: Re: Interview requests

Here is the correspondence that I have between the city and attorneys for Seville Harbour and Merrill Land, since 2008:

Letter dated 10/16/09 from Dan Lozier to Susan Woolf
Letter dated 2/28/11 from Dan Lozier to Susan Woolf
Letter dated 3/3/11 from Woolf to Lozier
Letter dated 7/21/11 from Leo Cyr to City Manager, City Attorney, Mayor
Letter dated 9/22/11 from Jim Messer to Leo Cyr
Letter dated 10/11/11 from Lozier to Messer
Letter dated 11/15/13 from Nix Daniel to Ray Russenberger and Collier Merrill

Are there any other letters between these parties regarding Pitt Slip leases that I’m missing and you can provide us?

Thank you.

Rick

This was her response:

From: Tamara Fountain
Subject: request for documents
Date: December 3, 2013 2:12:29 PM CST
To: Rick Outzen

Rick,

Janet Matteson (legal) responded that she did not have any further correspondence in her files.

Tamara W. Fountain
Communications Administrator
City of Pensacola

The Independent News’ cover story for this week–“How NOT to do business: City vs. The Fish House”– will be available online this afternoon. If you would like to receive a copy via email, subscribe to our newsletter.

—————-
In the interest of the full disclosure, Collier Merrill owns a five-percent interest in the Independent News. Ray Russenberger owns 2.5 percent. By our shareholders’ agreement, both are prohibited from having any say in the editorial content of the Independent News or my personal blog. I have sole control for the content of both. And, in case you’re curious, I own 90 percent of the paper and Chuck Emling has the remaining 2.5 percent.

  • G Miller December 5, 2013 at 6:04 am

    Rick, Thanks for publishing a fuller accounting of events and setting the record straight. I was so disappointed in the PNJ headline and felt for the staff at Fish House / Atlas. Two thoughts came to mind after seeing this and other activities of the city in the last year or two. Boycott the PNJ and Elect a new mayor. That from someone who was once a supporter of the current mayor.

  • Joe Vinson December 4, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Can’t imagine this is going to help lease parcels at the Maritime Park anytime soon. “We’ve got all this land, and we want you to invest your private capital. AND, if your business is really successful, we’ll come back in a decade or so and shake you down for retroactive payments! Now just sign here…”

  • Mr. Reality December 4, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    LMAO. So some other mgt groups send a letter over wanting to renew the lease until 2045 at the same rate and terms? YEA I BET THEY DO!!!

    HOW MUCH PRIVATE BUSINESS HAS BEEN DONE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS INVOLVING A PUBLICLY OWNED FACILITY? I THINK YOU SHAKE SOME JAIL KEYS AT THESE BOYS AND THE TRUTH WILL COME OUT QUICKLY!!!

  • Rick Outzen on the City of Pensacola vs. The Fish House | Jeremy Bosso December 4, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    […] DOCUMENT TRAIL on Pitt Slip leases gives the behind-the-scenes view. Several of these are published … […]

  • joe December 4, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    CJ, Do you really think the Mayor did not direct staff to leak the document for the pnj article?

  • Sad State December 4, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    CJ — Hayward never fires anyone face-to-face. He has his minions do his dirty work. The strong mayor experiment needs to be abandoned. Pensacola needs an ethical professional City Manager. Politicians in Pensacola are destructive and can’t be trusted.

  • CJ Lewis December 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Rick – Thanks for all of the “homework” done on this issue by you and your staff. Having read the IN Weekly story and especially the new documents posted here, plus having read all of the PNJ online and hard copy reporting and the documents posted to Maren DeWeese’s blog, I have absolutely no idea what Collier Merrill is expected to discuss on Monday with Mayor Ashton Hayward’s underlings. Exactly what is there to negotiate? From the start, in part because I did some basic pre-election research into Hayward’s background, I have been critical of Hayward because of his emphasis on form over substance to include his campaign motto “Perception is reality,” and because he lacks impulse control as seen here when he seems to have (again) acted before thinking. As a teenager, I played a lot of golf and had a dog named Mulligan. Hayward seems to have become “The Mulligan Mayor,” always having to take a do-over each time he duffs a shot off the tee. When the dust settles on this matter, I bet we learn that no one in City Hall ever pulled together the history of this issue trying to first find the dots and then connect the dots. Today’s IN Weekly reporting suggests a new business venture pulling together legislative history on the city’s most tortured and contentious issues. If the City Council had its own Staff, it might have been able to put together a more truthful story than did Hayward and his minions.

    Local government is a team sport. Hayward’s best sport golf is not a team sport. Hayward seems temperamentally incapable of working in concert with others for a common purpose. In my 26 years in the Marine Corps, I suffered having a few guys like Hayward in my unit or on my staff. We used to describe them as “Ready, Fire, Aim” officers, i.e. reckless. It seems increasingly clear why Hayward bounces from one career field to another not able to hold a job for more than a few years. If Hayward was a leadership Mayor, and he is not, he would take two immediate actions to dig out of the hole he has dug for himself. First, he should fire City Attorney Jim Messer who lacks the legal research, analysis and writing skills for the job. Up to this point, Messer has mostly legally tortured the City Council. The potential upside of this current SNAFU is that now everyone can see what it must feel like to be a City Council member suffering bad legal advice. Second, Hayward should hunt down and fire whoever leaked the document to the PNJ. He should do it in person face-to-face. Hayward must at least remember the name of the person he told to courier, fax, mail or e-mail the document to the PNJ. All of the lawyers would be too smart to be caught in this trap so the culprit is almost certainly someone in the Executive Branch of city government. Only one person in the Executive Branch is a direct report to Hayward – City Administrator Colleen Castille. All of the department heads are direct reports to her as is everyone but one person other than Hayward in the Office of the Mayor. Page 173 in the Fiscal Year 2014 Approved Budget is the Office of the Mayor organizational chart. If Hayward did not leak the document to the PNJ, then the “buck” stops with Castille or someone who works for her.

  • How Not To Do Business  | inweekly December 4, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    […] Document trail on Pitt Slip leases gives the behind-the-scenes view. Several of these are published … […]

  • Skip Vogelsang December 4, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I retired 4 yrs ago and have not even considered part time work until now. But if I can work as a member of the city admin staff and all I need to do in order to keep my job is to send memos or letters back and forth with a few non binding opinions and acknowledgements that your letter has been received I am ready to report for duty. And it puts me closer to the Fish House for lunch — win / win