Email shows Studers intended to use UWF refund for stadium

The timeline published by the PNJ misses some key points and critical correspondence between the city, CMPA and the Studers:

The Master Lease between the City of Pensacola and Community Maritime Park Associates, Inc. states:

“The University of West Florida has committed funds to the initial development of the Maritime Museum Project with terms and conditions acceptable to Lessee and Lessor, including a pledge by Quinton D. and Mary P. Studer for a contribution of Two Million Two Hundred Thousand Dollars ($2,250,000.00) to the Maritime Museum Project, or in the event the Maritime Museum Project is not developed, then applied to the Public Improvements Costs.”

The Master Lease was signed March 27, 2006 by Quint Studer as a trustee of CMPA. I spoke with CMPA attorney Ed Fleming yesterday. He agreed that there is nothing in the agreement as to who how the funds would be applied or who controls the application.

UWF didn’t sign the agreement so it had no obligation under this agreement to return the funds and, in fact, they tried to convince the Studers to keep the funds at the university. Rishy Studer, who contributed the money to the museum along with her husband, never signed the agreement. Neither Quint nor Rishy Studer were asked to individually agree to this clause in the Master Lease.

Fleming tried to argue yesterday that Studer was the sole CMPA trustee. He was not. Vince Whibbs, Sr. had been selected to replace Jack Fetterman who died the prior month.

The contribution was made to UWF and not the CMPA because UWF believed it could get a dollar-for-dollar match through the State of Florida Alec P. Courtelis program. The Studers were convinced by UWF and city officials that it would be better than giving $2.25 million directly toward the construction of the stadium.

Since that agreement was signed, the only party to fulfill its commitments has been the Studers. UWF was committed to use of the Conference Center Project and to classroom and office space. UWF was committed to build the Maritime Museum. Ed Fleming and Ed Spears didn’t write demand letters for the conference center lease or museum. The stadium at that point in time was to be a $16-million project.

The Studers are the only ones who have put personal funds into the project–nearly $1.9 million (which doesn’t include any of his baseball expenditures). They have met their commitments, which included paying for a life insurance policy naming CMPA as the beneficiary—The Studers have paid nearly $250K in premiums on that policy.

Quint and Rishy Studer made their contribution for the Maritime Museum to the University of West Florida Foundation in December 2007. The Alec Courelis match never happened because the state legislature quit funding the program.

On May 26, 2009, attorney Bob Hart sent, on behalf of the Studers, a letter to City Manager Al Coby to confirm the Studers’ agreement that “if the Maritime Museum is not built, the Funds will be contributed to the Community Maritime Park Associates, Inc. to be used for construction of that part of the Public Improvements that is the Multi-Use Facility.” The Studers wanted it to be clear where the funds would go.

In the fall of 2010, the UWF and its VP Kyle Marrero talked to the Studers about the UWF Foundation’s desire to keep the $2.25 million since it had become obvious that the maritime museum was going to be built. Other donors to the Maritime Museum had asked for and had their donations returned. The Studers told UWF that they wanted to the contribution returned.

In an email, dated Nov. 6, 2010, to Marrero, Quint Studer wrote, “We do feel with the current community maritime park and downtown community needs that the two plus million dollars needs to be utilized very quickly to create a better park and community and we admire UWF’s integrity in reviewing the situation and providing donors the opportunity to receive these funds back.”

At the same, Quint Studer was negotiating for the purchase of a Double A baseball team. He had a conference call with Eddie Todd, then chairman of the CMPA, and Ed Spears, executive director of the CMPA, to inform them of his negotiations. Spears said that with the contingencies and other savings with park project that there were sufficient funds to expand the stadium.

Over four years since the Master Lease had been signed, the stadium budget had been drastically cut–from $16M in 2006 to $12,871,700 when the CMPA presented the budget to the Pensacola City Council in September 2008. By 2010, the Design-Build contract for MPDP had cut the stadium budget further to $11,148,514.

Studer had his baseball team – led by Bruce Baldwin and Chuck Tessier- meet in January with Spears and the contractors to figure out necessary improvements to the park to get up to Double A standards. He thought Spears had the funds to do it.

They agreed on the stadium enhancements that would be presented to the CMPA board:

Additional 2,050 seats: $2,025,000
Minor design changes: $240,000
Signage package: $100,000
Concession equipment: $500,000
Scoreboard enhancement: $500,000
Concession stands MEP: $260,000
AV Media Communications Enhancement: $350,000
FF&E package: $800,000
Right field restroom building: $200,000
Design fees: $250,000

Total: $5,225,000

—Note that this got the stadium construction budget back to the original 2006 figure.

By December 2010, Spears was aware that UWF was not building the maritime museum and that donors were getting their donations refunded. He didn’t ask the Studers for the $2.25 million. Spears told Studer ‘s team that the CMPA needed an additional $2,050,000 to complete the work. Reluctantly Studer agreed, knowing that it ate up most of the funds that he was getting back from UWF later that spring. He was upset that Spears couldn’t deliver as he promised when the Studers agreed to buy the team.

There has been a rumor that Spears and the CMPA received an email or letter from Studer’s attorney Bob Hart saying the $2.05 million was a new commitment. To date, the City hasn’t been able to produce such an email.

I asked Scott Remington, Hart’s law partner, for any emails to or from Hart about the $2.05 million and where those funds were coming from. He produced an email from Quint Studer to Bob Hart, dated Jan. 26 (five days before the workshop) in which Studer wrote: “From what Chuck has heard, stadium will need about $2 million dollars privately. This will mean all money from UWF going that way.”

When Spears presented the stadium enhancements to the CMPA board, he didn’t say that he believed that there was an additional $2.25 million coming to the project because of the decision by the UWF Board of Trustees to refund donations to the museum.

At the Jan. 31, attorney Bob Hart made the announcement that the Studers would give the needed $2.05 million. Hart read a brief statement from the Studers, “We are grateful God has provided us with the opportunity to be in a position to provide an additional $2,050,000 in private funding to help the stadium and the park be one that will excite citizens, visitors and new businesses.”

For the Studers, the word “additional” meant in addition to the funds that Spears said that the CMPA could contribute to the enhancements.

The CMPA board approved the stadium enhancements. After meeting, neither Spears nor Fleming contacted the Studers or Bob Hart to draft a written agreement or memorandum of understanding for the contribution to the park. The Studers had no idea that the two Eds thought the $2.05 million was not part of the $2.25 million commitment.

Such a document would have clarified how and when the funds would be transferred and if they were coming from a source other than the UWF donation.

CMPA Board member Jim Reeves, who is the board liaison with Fleming, told the IN that he doesn’t think there’s anyone on the board who believes the Studers are on the line for two separate donations.

Ed Gray, III, who oversees the New Market Tax Credits, agrees. “I never heard anything but one two-plus million pledge,” said Gray. “I never heard anything but the one.”

There are no financial reports or budgets that show the Studers owe the CMPA $4.3 million.