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The Buzz 12.16

MPDP BETRAYAL The one person who has been consistently mentioned in both the Request for Qualification (RFQ) and Request for Proposal (RFP) is Cynthia Griffin of Saxet Realty. Her role per the RFQ was to be in charge of Commercial Retail and Restaurant Leasing. The RFP had her role as the Coordinating Broker.

IN reached Griffin while she was traveling in Texas, where she also is a real estate broker. The paper had been told by several sources that she had been part of the Land Capital development team from the very beginning and had brought Davison to Pensacola.

Griffin said she had not only brought Davison in the “deal,” but had hooked him up with San Antonio commercial investor Rick Rodriguez, with whom she had gone to graduate school at Texas A&M.

The commercial real estate broker was reluctant to talk, but said that she hasn’t been paid the money she was promised by Davison and Rodriguez for arranging the deal. “I feel very betrayed by both parties,” Griffin told the IN.

“I brought them together and then everything went crazy,” Griffin said. “Everyone went back on their word. I know the commercial real estate business can be terrible, but I’ve never seen something go quite as nuts as this.”

She said that after 23 years in the business she isn’t sure she still wants to be a commercial broker. Since 1987, she has operated under the radar representing several national retailers on an exclusive basis, including Ruby Tuesday, Starbucks and Office Depot.

Griffin thought both Davison and Rodriguez were capable of developing the Community Maritime Park. “Scott is a very brilliant person. I’ve known him for 10-11 years and he is a shrewd business person. I wouldn’t have recommended him if I didn’t think he could do it.”

She said that Scott and Land Capital Group appeared to be successful in retail development. “From an intelligence and experience standpoint, Scott is very capable.”

Griffin brought Rodriguez into the deal when it appeared Davison didn’t have the financial resources to be the master developer. She had only recently reconnected with Rodriguez, who had married one of her college friends.

“Rick owns and controls more office space in San Antonio than anyone and had recently done a big housing project with the city of San Antonio,” Griffin said. “I thought, ‘Good grief, he has his act together.’”

Griffin would not tell the IN any of the specifics of how she was to be paid or about the early negotiations of Davison and Rodriguez. She expected to be paid after MPDP signed the contract with CMPA in August 2009.

Last April, she said that they offered what she called “little girl walk away money,” which she refused. “All I can say is that I feel betrayed and disappointed,” she said before she ended the interview. “The betrayal is so extensive by Rick, Scott and other members of the team—people that I have personally known for years.”

Through a public records request, IN did obtain a copy of an email, dated April 15, 2010, from Griffin to Davison, Jeff Galt (MPDP president) and Mark White.

She wrote that the men were to make changes to two agreements that the CMPA has no knowledge of and which Galt and Davison failed to give CMPA attorney Ed Fleming when he made his public records request: MDPD of Florida Commission Agreement and the MPLC of Florida Profit Participation Agreement.

She wrote, “…with all the PNJ disclosure, it has been evident that all vendors/contractors involved in this project, to date, have been paid LARGE (her emphasis) sums, and ‘in full.’ Since our original commission agreement calls for that, and in light of the fact that precedence has been set with others, it is necessary that the entire $60K (your original offer of $50K plus $10K for the unreasonable 8-month delay and associated interest—not to mention attorney fees) be paid upon mutual execution of both documents.”

BP DOLLARS FOR CITY The Pensacola City Council has been reluctant to hire a law firm to represent it against BP for the city’s lost revenue.

Meanwhile, Panama City hired a firm, Nix, Patterson and Roach, in September. The firm created an economic model to demonstrate Panama City’s sustained losses. Last week, the Panama City Beach City Council voted to accept a settlement offer from BP for $1.2 million in economic damages to the city from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The City of Pensacola is not even in negotiations with BP over economic damages.

SCHOOL DISTRICT GIVES BACK GRANT FUNDS The Escambia County School Board discussed at its Dec. 14 regular meeting the audit of the Restorative Justice Grant, the $945,000 three-year grant that Superintendent Malcolm Thomas recommended the board cancel (Independent News, “Buzz,” Nov. 18) back in September (which they did). The District will refund $22,346.12 to The Florida Bar Foundation.

According to IN conversations with school board members, the reason Thomas wanted to cancel the grant was the Foundation and the Collins Center were trying to control the program.

The questions from the Collins Center that are part of the audit report may shed more light upon the true reasons for Thomas wanting to give up $790,000.

The Collins Center wanted to know:

1) Why Bethel Youth Development (who piloted the program) wasn’t included in the projected budget?

2) Why did the District bill the Restorative Justice Program Administrator $2?

3) Why are site coordinators paid different salaries?

4) Invoices differ from budget and have handwritten notations. Why?

5) Invoices of Bethel and Unity don’t match what the District provided. Why?

6) “Why Try” curriculum budget had a cost of $2,110, but the invoice was only $1,650. What was the actual cost?

7) Only 44 copies of books were ordered, not 50 as listed in the budget. Why?

8) Packing slip for another book didn’t include cost information.

Hopefully, these questions aren’t why Thomas dropped the grant. Meanwhile, Florida’s budget shortfall for 2011 is getting larger—about $150 million larger. And Gov.-elect Rick Scott wants to cut school property taxes by $1 million, which will cost about $1.37 billion. Is this the best time to give back grant money?