On Sept. 4, 2019 the city of Brooksville agreed to fund the Brooksville Main Street program at $45,000 per year with several stipulations relating to financial disclosures. It has taken some time for the parties to iron out a contract as the matter was postponed at both the Sept. 16 and the Oct. 7 meetings. The parties were able to reach an agreement by the Oct. 21 meeting at which time the contract was approved by council.
During the Citizen Input time during the Oct. 7 council meeting, Daryl Johnston addressed the council. Johnston is the attorney for the Brooksville Vision Foundation, the organization that oversees the Brooksville Main Street program. He asked the city council for a postponement of agenda item M-5, the approval of the proposed agreement between the City and the Brooksville Vision Foundation.
Discussions between Johnston and City Attorney Nancy Stuparich had not resolved the few items that Brooksville Vision Foundation took exception to. With additional time, Johnston said they could be settled, or would at least be closer to a compromise.
Stuparich was not opposed to working out details to make Brooksville Vision Foundation more comfortable about signing, but would follow the direction of Council, she said.
Council member Betty Erhard wanted a vote to approve the agreement Stuparich prepared because of the “considerable amount of time” between meetings.
Erhard made a motion to approve the present agreement. Mayor Bill Kemerer asked to have the item’s agenda position changed first.
Erhard moved to change the agenda order to allow discussion of the agreement. Council member Pat Brayton seconded the motion. The motion passed 5-0.
Johnston said there were two issues in the agreement Stuparich prepared that would prevent Brooksville Vision Foundation from signing.
Forcing a vote on the agreement seemed punitive to council member Robert Battista. There was no urgency and putting off a vote for two weeks was acceptable.
Erhard’s motion to approve did not receive a second.
Battista moved to postpone the vote until the 10/21/19 meeting. Vice Mayor Joe Bernardini seconded the motion.
Battista questioned Stuparich about Brooksville Vision Foundation’s concerns. The core of the issue was not clear to Stuparich at the time, but it was related to documentation the city is requiring Brooksville Main Street to submit to them.
Since the city’s funding concerns Brooksville Main Street directly, Stuparich changed language in the contract to refer only to documents for Brooksville Main Street. Stuparich was not confident that they could reach common ground by the next meeting.
Kemerer recommended that Stuparich pursue other options with Brooksville Vision Foundation if they could not agree. His only stipulations were for the desired transparency and for Stuparich to be satisfied that the City’s interests are protected.
Brayton said Brooksville Main Street’s transparency and accountability to the City Council are his concerns. They should know exactly “what they need to give us, when they need to give it to us, and that we get the proper information,” Brayton said.
Erhard addressed the council members. “I’m not agreeing to any of it. The council hired a city attorney to do a job. Some council members were generous enough to give taxpayer money to this Brooksville Main Street and they’re having a difficult time with the contract? I’m having a difficult time understanding why you guys are all bending for them and not our city attorney,” she said.
Brayton, Kemerer, and Bernardini held firm to the Oct. 21 deadline for an agreement. “I go with the city attorney on this one,” Kemerer said.
“It’s taxpayer money,” Bernardini said. “If they want it, there’s certain things they will have to agree to.”
Kemerer called for the vote to postpone the item until Oct. 21. The motion passed 4-1, with Erhard dissenting.
For the 10/21/19 meeting, the Main Street Funding was part of the consent agenda. Erhard requested to pull it for discussion. Stuparich advised council and the public of the changes.
Stuparich, Johnston, City Manager Mark Kutney, and Brooksville Main Street Executive Director Natalie Kahler met to discuss the two core issues.
The first issue was the relationship between Brooksville Vision Foundation and other event sponsors. Since the City would be providing funds, if Brooksville Main Street did not profit financially from a partnership, they could work with other sponsors.
Brooksville Vision Foundation’s second issue was the requirement to make their records available to public records requests. Only records relating to the Main Street Program will be provided to the City Clerk. Stuparich said they would mainly be financial documents that would be submitted monthly to the council, although other documents could be provided.
In the case of a dispute regarding whether a document should be part of the public record, both the City and Brooksville Vision Foundation agreed to first try to resolve it together, and failing that, would seek the court’s judgment.
The City will make quarterly payments of $11,250.00 to the Main Street Program, retain the right to end the agreement at any time by providing a letter written by the City Manager, delivered via certified mail and email.
The Main Street Program provided the required financial documents showing activities for September, even though there was no approved contract.
Bernardini, Erhard, and Brayton discussed the timeliness of the documents provided. They agreed that documents provided after the 15th of the month would nullify the contract, especially since the Program had received extensions.
The Main Street Program is also required to give an informational presentation prior to requesting any funding. The presentation is designed to inform the Council how the money has been spent, and what events are planned.
Battista reminded the council members that the presentation is not for the Council’s approval, just information. “We’re not running the Main Street Program,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the City Council’s idea that we’re going to run the Main Street Program through these presentations.”
Battista moved to approve the contract with Brooksville Vision Foundation. Brayton seconded the motion. The contract was approved with a 4-1 vote. Erhard was the dissenting vote.