CMPA votes 9-2 to cancel MPDP for convenience

The Community Maritime Park Associate Board of Directors voted 9-2, after over 90 minutes of discussion, to terminate Maritime Park Development Partners, LLC as the project coordinator for the public construction. MPDP still has the right to develop the private sector and still owns 49 percent of Magi Construction that is building the public improvements.

Grace McCaffery and Dr. Jimmy Jones voted against the motion. Early in the debate, McCaffery had questioned whether board member Katie White could vote on the motion since the recommendation was being made by CMPA attorney Ed Fleming who is a partner in the firm where White works….an objection that MPDP’s attorney Eric Meade also tried to make. White made it clear that McDonald, Fleming Moorhead is a firm of separate P.A.’s. Her boss is Bruce McDonald and she doesn’t work for Ed Fleming. No one has ever objected to White voting on a recommendation by Fleming before.

The recommendation was made because Fleming, CMPA executive director Ed Spears and the Construction Owner Representative Hatch Mott MacDonald believed the project coordinator duties were actually being done by Magi Construction and that company was being paid $1 million to do it under the Design-Build contract. The cancellation could save MPDP over $500K.

Of course, MPDP objected, believing that newspaper articles, “rumor-mongering” and “false allegations” were the reason for the recommendation. Fleming said it was not, but did ask the board in two separate motions to set up a committee made up of Spears, CMPA board chair Eddie Todd and himself to meet with MPDP and have the power to send them notice to cure an breaches in the agreements. Fleming said he will continue his review into the contract performance and contract formation and will have a full report by the Jan. 2011 CMPA board meeting.

Fleming said the recommendation before the board was independent of news articles and done for the best interest of the CMPA because of the “substantial savings.”

MPDP was clearly frustrated by the limited scope of the discussion. Meade stood up several times hoping to get recognized by the chair. Rick Rodriguez, CEO of Brass/Magi Real Estate, and manager of MPDP, flew to Pensacola for the meeting, but wasn’t allowed to spoke on this issue.

The board did allow Meade to speak about the costs of termination. Meade said the termination put the Equal Business Opportunity program in jeopardy and makes the CMPA liable for third-party costs — costs that he couldn’t or wouldn’t define. Board member Bentina Terry who chairs the CMPA’s EBO Committee said that the EBO agreement with MPDP doesn’t go away, because CMPA has a completely separate agreement with MPDP for the EBO program.

Meade demanded the right to be heard and asserted that the board was only hearing one side of the facts, that Fleming and Spears had spoken with the board members and the board members were only pretending that they weren’t influenced by the allegations in the media. Meade said the EBO goes away with the cancellation and insinuated that only MPDP could run the program.

The action to cancel the project coordinator role for MPDP made no sense for a project that was on time and on schedule, according to Meade. The attorney also said that CMPA would be liable for the developer’s cost totaling $944,000. When pressed by Bentina Terry for specifics about the costs or at least say what type of costs were included in that huge number, Meade and Davison couldn’t, or wouldn’t, answer the question. But they were adamant the figure was $944K. The best the board could get out of Davison was it included salaries and professional services.

Before the vote on the recommendation, the board and audience had to hear a monologue from Pensacola City Councilwoman Megan Pratt about the history of the project and how canceling this part of the development agreement might hurt “future endeavors.” However, Pratt voted with the majority on the recommendation.

I left after the votes on Fleming’s recommendations. About two hours is all I can take on a Friday afternoon.

A few observations:
1. The newspaper reports were the pink elephants in the room. Typically Davison and MPDP have won the media battle on most issues – UWF, Judge Collier, HUD apartments, etc. I expect them to mount a push-back campaign – but it will have to be done with their own money this time. They can not use the Maritime Park website, Facebook page or Twitter account since the CMPA paid for them. MPDP can not use the email list to send out email blasts to defend themselves or attack the CMPA board. CMPA paid for that database, too.
2. Fleming’s final report could be explosive.
3. Grace McCaffery is very supportive of MPDP, which is her right. When she was talking about Katie White, she was very nervous and stumbled on her words. It sounded at one point like she said I can’t remember what I’m supposed to say. I will have to review the video of the meeting.
4. During his presentation, Ed Fleming turned to Davison and told him to quit attacking him while he was speaking. Apparently Davison was sniping at Fleming.
5. MPDP tried to rally the African-American support by saying the EBO program goes away. If the EBO program was working, they might have succeeded. Not this time. Scaring the board with huge cost figures and threats of lawsuits didn’t help either.
6. This all needs to go to grand jury. I don’t see how we can find the truth about the contract performance, contract formation and who is actually the partners in MPDP without subpoena power. Anything submitted by MPDP needs to notarized and independently validated.