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Ellington had plenty of time to give BCC and public more details (draft Visit Pensacola bylaws)

Ellington’s history with the tourism budget goes back beyond the last few weeks:

From: Ron Ellington
Sent: Monday, July 08, 2013 7:53 PM
To: Gene Valentino (district2@co.escambia.fl.us); Wilson Robertson (district1@co.escambia.fl.us); Grover Robinson (GCROBINS@co.escambia.fl.us); district3@myescambia.com; Steven L. Barry
Cc: george@innisfree.com; Amy Lovoy (allovoy@co.escambia.fl.us); Jim Hizer; ‘Sandy Sansing'; Steve Hayes (shayes@VisitPensacola.com); Bob@highpointe.com; dave@highpointe.com; Greg Jones (gregjones@wcicommunities.com); gus@myskopelos.com; harlan@innisfree.com; jay@lhs.cc; Julian MacQueen (julian@innisfree.com); Marilyn Hess (marilynhess@aol.com); Nash LHS Companies; noelfaddis@aol.com; Pat McClellan (Pat_mac_49@hotmail.com); Patti Mohan (pattim@lbaproperties.com); Pete King (pking@resortquest.com); Ray Palmer (rpalmer@pensacolasports.com); Rob Babcock; robertr@resortrealtylife.com; Ryan Christopher (rchristopher@resortquest.com); shawn_keenan@amfilife.com; Susan Carleton (susan@gosouthern.com); tishpatel@cox.net; Tosh Belsinger
Subject: Visit Pensacola Proposed 2013/14 Budget Request

Dear Commissioners: We look forward to presenting the FY 13/14 Visit Pensacola unified budget request at your convenience. Last year the Commissioners agreed to a formula that provided historic TDT revenue to the unified budget to help offset the loss of BP grants, which had proven invaluable in increasing our number of overnight guests and TDT collections. We think that the Commissioner’s decision has been proved correct. We are currently running 6% ahead of last year’s TDT collections, which were 12.5% over the prior year.

Attached is the Visit Pensacola unified budget TDT request, which has been approved by TACC and previously approved by the Pensacola Sports Association and the Perdido Key Area Chamber of Commerce. It will be presented to the Tourist Development Council tomorrow afternoon and follows the formula to which the Commissioners agreed last year.
1. 1st cent – Unified budget receives all collections over of the Civic Center operating loss (projected at $1,400,000) including the excess over the budgeted collection and the 5% initial hold back
2. 2nd cent – 100% to unified budget, including the excess over the budgeted collection and the 5% initial hold back
3. 3rd cent – 100 % to unified budget, including the excess over the budgeted collection and the 5% initial hold back
4. 4th cent – Everything over the $820,000 cap to which the Commissioner’s agreed and the 5% initial hold back

This request would provide the unified budget with $4,500,000 in the initial budget with the potential for an additional $948,000 from the 5% hold back and the excess over the projected amount for a total of approximately $5,500,000. This would be a 1.7% increase over last year which included the one time allocation of $250,000 from the TDT reserve. We understand that the reserve (AKA fund balance) is currently $550,000, and we recommend keeping it at that amount for emergencies.

Please let us know if you have any questions, and when you would like for us to present the full budget request.

Best regards,
Ron

Of course, this brings up questions about Sunshine law. Why is Ellington sending this email and not a chamber official?

Ellington drafted bylaws for Visit Pensacola that he circulated with the hoteliers and chamber executive committee. He also set up a timetable for the transition. Neither have been shared with the public.

From: Ron Ellington [mailto:Ron@innisfree.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 6:17 PM
To: Sandy Sansing; Admiral Bob Kelly (wgrpbk@cox.net); Bob Cleveland; carol.carlan@carlanconsulting.com; Debbie Ritchie; don mcmahonhadder.com; Fred Donovan, Jr.; Gary Huston; John Hutchinson; Lbearjr@aol.com
Cc: Jim Hizer; Steve Hayes (shayes@VisitPensacola.com); Todd M. La Douceur (TLaDouceur@gjtbs.com); ‘Gabriel Hartsell (ghartsell@gjtbs.com)’ (ghartsell@gjtbs.com); Julian MacQueen; Harlan Butler; nash@lhs.cc; jay@lhs.cc; Ray Palmer (rpalmer@pensacolasports.com); Dave Cleveland; Tosh Belsinger; shawn_keenan@amfilife.com; Susan Carleton (susan@gosouthern.com); Ryan Christopher (rchristopher@resortquest.com); Pete King (pking@resortquest.com)
Subject: Visit Pensacola Bylaws Comments and Requested Meeting Dates

Hi all: Attached are our comments on the Visit Pensacola Bylaws and governance structure provided by the Chamber’s legal counsel. We have attached the clean version as there are many earlier versions which some of you have not seen. We feel these comments and the governance structure are all in keeping with the Chamber’s objectives of ensuring that tourism is actively managed and promoted by an engaged board that has parity.

The principal comments from earlier versions are:
1. Reduce board from 9 to 7 members by removing the
a. Pensacola Bay Area Chamber’s second board seat. Gives every entity parity with one seat each.
b. PEDC seat. PEDC long ago stopped being involved in tourism.
2. Current TACC Board has six voting members, five of which are carried forward to new 7 member Visit Pensacola Board.
a. 7 member board would include
(1) Pensacola Bay Area Chamber – as today
(2) Pensacola Beach Chamber – as today
(3) Perdido Key Chamber – as today
(4) Pensacola City Council – as today
(5) Escambia County Commissioner – as today
(6) Pensacola Sports Association – new; currently ex-officio
(7) Escambia County Destination Marketing Organization – new; previously committed to by Pensacola Chamber April 2012
3. Have included specific qualifications for each director to help ensure that it is a board of policy makers.
4. Make all votes by majority rather than 3/4th, except on matters adding classes or amending bylaws, which shall be by 2/3rds vote.
5. Visit Pensacola staff will move from the Pensacola Chamber payroll to the Visit Pensacola payroll, and be directed by the Visit Pensacola board effective midnight September 30, 2013.
6. Visit Pensacola may contract with the Pensacola Bay Chamber for IT, HR, accounting, and any other services deemed appropriate.
7. Suggested Events and Timeline:
a. Approve Visit Pensacola Bylaws by end of July 19, 2013
b. Visit Pensacola incorporated by August 12, 2013
c. Unified budget request assumed by Visit Pensacola by August 19, 2013
d. Visitor Information Center lease with city assigned from Pensacola Chamber to Visit Pensacola August 2013
e. Visit Pensacola to engage legal and accounting representation August 2013
f. Services contact with Chamber drafted by August 12, 2013
g. Services contract executed by August 30, 2013
h. Formal change over October 1, 2013 when new fiscal year budget goes in place

Time continues to be of the essence as we are currently involved in prosecuting the FY 13/14 budget and need sufficient time to ensure all logistics are handled appropriately with no loss of momentum or focus. We know the Chamber has a lot in motion, but resolving this will help provide additional time and clarity for its other initiatives. According, we suggest a publicly noticed Sunshine meeting to discuss and resolve this on July 16th, 18th, or 19th. The county routinely provides at least 72 hour notice to a Sunshine meeting, which would allow ample time to meet any of the suggested dates.

Plze also do not hit reply to all in an abundance caution as we have members on various Sunshine boards; TACC, TDC, the Greater Chamber. Plze respond only to Bob, Steve, Jim, and me with any comments or questions.

Cheers,
Ron

Here is the draft from July – which we’ve been told has since been modified: Visit Pensacola Bylaws

The last sentence of this email bothers me. For the record, this information was not shared with the full board of the Greater Pensacola Chamber at its July or August board meetings.