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:email@example.com]
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?
This was her response:
From: Tamara Fountain
Subject: request for documents
Date: December 3, 2013 2:12:29 PM CST
To: Rick Outzen
Janet Matteson (legal) responded that she did not have any further correspondence in her files.
Tamara W. Fountain
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.