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The Buzz 2/3/11

FOLLOWING THE P.A.T.H. Rev. LuTimothy May, pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, has notified George Hawthorne, CEO of Diversified Program Advisors (DPA), that his church will not be a part of Hawthorne’s Providing Avenues To Hope (P.A.T.H.) program, which proposes to convert the old Brownsville Middle School into a one-stop center for social services. Instead, the church has its own plans for expanding into the Brownsville community.

For the past two years, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church had been in negotiations with Superintendent of Schools Malcolm Thomas for the school property. The church had made a final offer of $500,000 for the school, which Thomas rejected in November 2010 and chose to not present to the School Board. Hawthorne has offered $1 million, and his offer is tentatively scheduled to be presented to the school board in February.

The IN heard rumors of a possible sale to Hawthorne in late November. In an email dated Dec. 8, 2010 to IN publisher Rick Outzen, Hawthorne originally said that he was seeking a “lease-to-purchase agreement with the School District to allow the opening of the PFRC (Pensacola Family Resource Center) to start the process as described in the strategic plan.” Hawthorne believed the PFRC, which would focus the “resources and program of existing social service, education institutions, medical community, and the government official and agencies” into one site, would provide a “framework to accomplish what (May) has desired.”

In January the lease-to-purchase agreement morphed into a simple purchase agreement by Hawthorne’s for-profit DPA. When Superintendent Thomas announced the purchase agreement in the daily newspaper, the IN questioned community involvement, particularly Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, in the property.

Hawthorne described, in an email, P.A.T.H. as a “Gulf Coast African American Chamber of Commerce (GCAACC) initiative that my company Diversity Program Advisors developed.” He wrote, “The Brownsville School acquisition is intended to be an integral part of the comprehensive strategy plan of the P.A.T.H. Program. My company Diversity Program Advisors is going to make a significant private-sector contribution to this effort by the acquiring the school to serve as the headquarters for the P.A.T.H. Program’s One-Stop Center.” Hawthorne is also the executive director of the GCAACC.

Hawthorne claimed that Rev. May was part of his PFRC. “LuTimothy will be involved,” wrote Hawthorne. “Nothing I have said has changed.”

When pressed further, Hawthorne admitted that May hadn’t been involved in the negotiations and only had been sent the program information. “I will continue to leave the door open for his involvement at whatever level he desires,” Hawthorne wrote in a Jan. 21 email.

On Jan. 27, Rev. May and Friendship Missionary Baptist Church wrote Hawthorne to make it clear that they weren’t a part of his PFRC. “As I shared with you before, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church will not be able to partner or be the lead agency for your proposed programs,” wrote May.

“The many programs and projects that the church is currently facilitating will not allow the church, at this time, to effectively and efficiently take an official role in your proposed plan.”

The following day Hawthorne held a P.A.T.H. steering committee meeting at Pensacola City Hall. After nearly three hours of open discussion of the problems in Brownsville, Hawthorne thanked all the participants and told them they would be contacted to serve on the steering committee and various, to-be-named sub-committees.

Stay tuned.
DROP OUTS The City of Pensacola has 94 employees that are in the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP), an alternative method for payment of retirement benefits for a specified and limited period for employees that are an eligible Florida Retirement System (FRS) Pension Plan member.

Under DROP, employees agree to retire in five years, and their retirement benefits accumulate in the FRS Trust Fund earning monthly interest equivalent to an annual rate of 6.50 percent while they continue to work for the city. Upon termination, the DROP account is paid to the employee as a lump sum payment, a rollover or a combination partial lump sum payment and rollover.

It has been well-publicized that former City Manager Al Coby and City Attorney Rusty Wells have passed their DROP dates—Coby on Jan. 5, 2009 and Wells on Aug. 30, 2009. The only other city employee that has passed her DROP date is Leilani Russell, assistant director of finance, whose date was June 20, 2010.

The City of Pensacola has five employees who will hit their DROP dates in 2011, including Housing Director Patricia Hubbard. Twenty-five employees are set to retire in 2012, including Finance Director Richard Barker, Public Works Director Al Garza Jr., Library Director Eugene Fischer and three of Coby’s executive assistants: Donna Harris, Elaine Mager and Janet Brown.
NEW CODE Mayor Ashton Hayward released on Friday, Jan. 28 highlights of his proposed Code of Ethics for city officials and employees.

The proposed code strengthens the conflict of interest rules and gift rules beyond the current minimum standards in the Florida Statutes by tightening the rules on gifts to city officials and employees. It prevents former city officials or employees from appearing before the department or board they were involved with on behalf of another (i.e. lobbying) for a period of two years after they leave city employment and requires disclosure of financial dealings by city officials and staff with those who might be doing business with the City.

Hayward wants to prohibit nepotism in employment of city staff, financial transactions with subordinates, and any fees or honoraria for city officials or employees as speakers or participation in events, and to impose requirements for annual financial disclosure of specified officials and employees.

The Code of Ethics must be approved by the Pensacola City Council before it goes into effect.