Pensacola City Attorney Jim Messer seemed unclear on exactly what City Councilman Brian Spencer was wanting of him during last night’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
“They’re are certain grounds to remove trustees,” Messer told the councilman. “In order to establish a process or deviate from’em, the Community Maritime Park Associates is going to have to amend their bylaws.”
Spencer had requested that the attorney provide a legal memorandum outlining a process by which council could remove the sitting CMPA board, and replace trustees with either themselves or their appointees. It was a continuation of an ongoing discussion concerning the composition of the CMPA board, which oversees the Community Maritime Park.
“I guess my question is, what’s the reason behind this?” asked Councilman Gerald Wingate. “We’re not getting the answers we want from the CMPA is the reason we want to replace them? We’re not satisfied with what they’re doing? What’s the reason?”
Spencer noted recent issues concerning the CMPA— “certainly, it’s no secret that Mr. Gunther has been the headliner, stealing a lot of ink lately”—and said that council members had needed to engage in “spirited, lengthy discussions, as though we were sitting as the CMPA.”
Over the last few months, questions have arisen as interested parties—first the YMCA, then Beck Property Company—have sought parcels at the Community Maritime Park. Both Spencer and Councilman Larry B. Johnson have pushed for reassessing the CMPA’s composition.
While several members seemed up for engaging Messer in an academic legal exercise, they also voiced concern about the impacts of the direction Spencer was laying out. Members raised concerns about cutting loose trustees who have put in countless volunteer hours and about how much control council actually held over the CMPA due to the involved New Market Tax Credits. Council President P.C. Wu warned members to “be careful what you wish for,” noting how many hours of service were required of CMPA trustees.
Ultimately, council was split 4-4 on requesting a memorandum from Messer. Councilpersons Sherri Myers, Andy Terhaar, Wu and Spencer were in favor, while Charles Bare, Megan Pratt, Vice President Jewell Cannada-Wynn and Wingate were opposed. Councilman Johnson was absent for the vote.