Sansing gives details on IPC meeting with Hizer and the role of PNJ in it

August 20, 2013

The daily newspaper has hammered away at the Greater Pensacola Chamber and its chairman Sandy Sansing for telling its former CEO, Jim Hizer, that his employment contract would not be renewed at an evening meeting at the Irish Politicians Club inside McGuire’s Irish Pub.

What the Pensacola New Journal has failed to mention is its role in that meeting.

Yesterday at its August board meeting, Sansing filled in the chamber board on exactly how that meeting took place and what was said to Hizer.

“I think we’ve all tried to treat Mr. Hizer with the respect and discretion that any of us would hope for if we were in his shoes,” Sansing said, reading from a statement he had prepared for the meeting.

“I would like to clear the air about the meeting at the IPC at McGuire’s that was reported again today in the paper.

“To go back in time, I called Mr. Hizer’s office on a Wednesday morning and scheduled a meeting with him at his office on the Friday morning of that week to tell him about the Executive Committee’s unanimous decision (to renew his contract).

“On the afternoon of that same Wednesday, I received a call from Mr. Hizer informing me that he had been called by Carlton Proctor of the PNJ and informed that he knew that his contract was not going to be renewed. I was quite surprised and told Jim that I would call him back.

“Shortly thereafter I received a call from Carlton about this. He stated that the paper wanted to run a story the very next day. I asked Carlton to please hold off a day or two on the story so we could meet with Jim face to face. Carlton said that he would check on this. He called back and said that his supervisors were committed to run the story the next day.

“I then received calls from his superiors and asked them to give us a day or two to talk to Jim first. They said that they had the story and wanted to run it the next day. I said that I understand, but it is not right for Jim to read about this in the paper first. They said if we wanted to talk to Jim first, then we had better do it that night.

“I then called our attorney, Todd LadDoucer, and Lewis Bear. We discussed our options and we decided to try to setup a meeting that night with Mr. Hizer. I called Mr. Hizer around 6 p.m. and asked if we could meet that night.

“He said yes and, I do believe, he recommended the IPC because it was convenient to all, as he was coming from Gulf Breeze, and it had private rooms.”

Then Sansing paused and asked Carlton Proctor, was covering the board meeting on Monday for the PNJ, “Carlton, have I been correct in my recollection?”

Proctor said that he had.

Sansing continued, “We had a majority of the Executive Committee present. I began the meeting by telling Mr. Hizer that we had unanimously decided that, due to a number of reasons, we could not accept his terms. I then asked Mr. Hizer, ‘To help you and your family, how would you like us to present this to the press and public?’

“He stated that he would like it said that, ‘We could not come to mutually agreeable terms’ and nothing else. We agreed.”

Sansing then asked the Executive Committee members present at yesterday’s board meeting, “Does anyone have anything to offer or corrections on what I have said?”

The executive committee members nodded their heads in agreement.

Publisher’s Note: I serve on the chamber board, not the executive committee. I publicly at a subsequent board meeting challenged the decision of the executive committee on Hizer’s employment without taking it to the full board for the final vote. It was my belief that the entire board had the final say on this not the executive committee. The board did later vote to accept the recommendation to not renew his contract.

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  • John August 20, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Mr. Outzen, with all due respect, you are a member of the Board and participated in a closed meeting where just a month later the state attorney says you should be in sunshine. I think I read somewhere that you are on the new sunshine committee at the Chamber. Why don’t you get the minutes from the vote and publish them? My understanding is that the Chamber still believes the minutes are not public. How can that be?

  • busted August 20, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    If I were on this board I would feel like a mushroom due to the cavalier manner in which the Executive Committee makes and executes major decisions without notifying the Board. They (the Board) should have been apprised of the ongoing discussions with Hizer regarding his contract just as they should have been advised of the ongoing discussions with the Tourism group. Both apparently were in the works for months prior to this past Monday’s meeting. Instead the Board gets ambushed after the fact on both issues. The star chamber tag is quite appropriate indeed.
    The meeting minutes will most likely verify that Sansing, at most, asked the Board to rubber stamp a decision already made by Executive Committee. I doubt there was any meaningful discussion or disclosure to the Board – just a nod and a rubber stamp.

  • Ames August 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Shouldn’t members of both the executive committee and the board be aware that they had sunshine obligations without having to be told that by Eddins??
    Surely they are aware that the chamber receives public money, and therefore have Sunshine obligations

  • bob kerrigan August 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    It’s a shame. Pretty basic stuff. It is not the way you treat someone you don’t like let alone someone you do. I would have hoped one of the executive committee members had access to a car so they could have driven to see the guy and tell him to his face. Their aversion to the press knowing what they do finds a private bar a most convenient meeting place. Here is the way it appears. They used him to raise money that because of their reputation they could not raise themselves. Once he secured the pledges his usefulness was no more. They then claimed they needed a better manager whatever that means. I would have hoped someone would have asked some tough questions of the executive committee that acted without prior board approval but its structure assures universal support if not complicity with “leadership”. It is why many of us have never supported them in the past. We thought it would be different when they hired Mr. Hizer. It was while he was there. A good man who sparked great enthusiasm and wide support treated about as shabbily as anyone could imagine. leaking his termination to the press was intentional, indefensible and calculated to disgrace a good man. That they accomplished.

  • John August 20, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Its obvious the full board meeting did not occur in May since the IPC meeting with Hizer took place 29 May. Assuming the vote by the full board took place, as you said, in June, then those June meeting minutes should have been approved by the full board in its July meeting, which would have taken place AFTER the letter from Mr. Eddins was received by the chamber. So the July board meeting was unquestionably sunshine and the minutes from the June meeting (which should have been on the agenda for approval) would also be public, right? Many questions can be answered by publishing those minutes on your blog. Can you make that happen? Thanks.

    • Rick Outzen August 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      Check with the chamber for the minutes. I don’t have copies. There were two special boards meeting held in June. One on June 3, the other on June 12 –I can’t remember at which meeting we had the discussion about the executive committee and Mr. Hizer.

      I did not attend the regular June board meeting on June 17. And it definitely was not brought up at the July board meeting, which was Jim Hizer’s last meeting as CEO.

      The minutes will tell when we had the discussion before the full board.

  • CJ Lewis August 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Putting aside the Sunshine law, what do the Chamber’s by-laws require for the Executive Committee to meet? Do the by-laws require the Executive Committee to publish an agenda, at least to the members of the Executive Committee, and give notice to “all” the members of the Executive Committee? Why would the Executive Committee meet at McGuire’s Irish Pub vice at the Chamber? Do the by-laws prescribe the process for hiring and firing the President/CEO? Did the Executive Committee hire Hizer or did the Board of Directors have the final say? It sure seems like some people are going to a lot of trouble torturing common sense to get rid of Hizer for doing a good job.

  • John August 20, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Rick, exactly WHEN did the full board vote to not renew Hizer’s contract? Specifically, which meeting and what day? Did that meeting occur in sunshine? Thanks.

    • Rick Outzen August 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      The meeting was either in late May or early June, not under Florida’s Sunshine rules. The state attorney did not issue his findings on Sunshine and the chamber until July 11.

  • Dale Parker August 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Star Chamber Proceedings … The biggest game in Pensacola is to hold a vote with the fewest voters possible. Same with the Chamber, it is probably no mystery that like minded individuals whom had an agenda attended that meeting to ensure the outcome.

    I agree with Rick, a decision that big should have went to the entire board for final decision. It did not. Quite frankly, I think that the full board would not have supported the Executive Committee meeting in a “Private Room” at the IPC. (Of which, PRIVATE IPC ROOM MEETINGS should be the source of an FBI Investigation. But that is another matter).

    Here we bring a guy in who accomplished the goals set forth before him. Increased employment as a goal during a difficult economic development environment. Instrumental in setting up the foundation for a regional economic development effort, basically what everyone has been wishing for for years… and we let HIM go?

    Why, because he stepped on some entrenched toes on the way? He offend Bullock who held a contract for years that he did not have to compete for? Because he did not allow Grover Robinson’s little coup hijacking the tourism budget for his hotel buddies.

    For once I was building respect for the Chamber and in a fleeting moment, Sandy Sansing and his band of marry-men have totally decimated it. Now, like the County and like the City the Chamber is yet another local institution that will not get a quality leader because when they have one they ruin their careers because that very same leadership is not compatible with the hanky panky they like to play with our tax dollars.

    Personally, I think everyone should pull out of the Chamber until they can get their heads on straight. Hit them in their pockets.

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