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Subject of contract to run Everbank Field came up

10:12 PM, Jun 22, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An early morning meet and greet between city council members and new Jaguars owner touched on a city contract soon to be awarded, raising questions about violations of the Sunshine Law which requires meetings to be advertised.

In a meeting recently attended by three city council members with Jaguars officials, the subject of a contract to manage Everbank Field came up. The city is in the middle of a bidding process to determine if SMG or Global Spectrum will run the city's entertainment venues.

So should that meeting have been open to the public and the media with city business being addressed? The city council recently passed an emergency ordinance saying it wanted to vote to award the entertainment contract.

City Councilman Matt Schellenburg confirms early on during the early morning get together, that Jaguars President Mark Lamping made the comment that the Jaguars supported SMG, but Schellenburg says that is as far as it went on that subject.

"That is all he said, that was all the discussion," said Schellenberg. "Nobody asked any questions beyond that point, they are very sensitive and we are too to the Sunshine Law. If any of the council people felt uncomfortable we would have said something, none of us felt uncomfortable. We just went on from that."

Schellenburg says the Jags made a statement of fact that was already well known. Since there was no discussion, Schellenburg says there was no violation of the Sunshine Law. He says that  city ethics officer Carla Miller confirmed his opinion when he went to her after he was questioned about the meeting.

Media attorney George Gabel agrees with that opinion.

"Somebody could say something to them, but if it is not discussed then there is no violation of the Sunshine Law," said Gabel. "There may be a perception that there is discussion of city business, they need to be careful, that's all I'd say."

The council's involvement in the contract precurement process may all be moot. City general counsel Cindy Laquidera has issued an opinion that the city council has no say in the matter and can't change the rules in the middle of the process.

"They delegated that power to the mayor and the way both precurement works and the separation of powers, once they delegated, the process has to go through to completion," said Laquidera.

Meanwhile, Mayor Alvin Brown, with the help of the Professional Services Evaluation Committe is expected to select between the two companies within two weeks.  The two companies are now being scored and evaluated.

Schellenberg says even though he is not required by law, the mayor should consult with the council members on that decision. And Schellenberg says , Jaguars owner Shahid Khan should continue to meet with council members to talk about how to make Jacksonville better, which he says was the only topic of discussion during their meeting.

"Mr. Khan was just trying to get to know us. He wanted to share  his views on how to make our city a better place, and what we thought as well. I was glad I got a chance to meet him. It is clear he loves Jacksonville, you could hear it in his voice."  










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