Fair Authority Chairman scoffs at Florida's Sunshine Laws while secretly plotting a shopping center and hotels on our state Fairgrounds.

So, was the timing on Hagan's letter to the group proposing a new stadium for the Rays just a coincidence or did somebody "keep him in the loop" too? David Mechanik is no stranger to our County Commission as he has contributed to every sitting Commissioner except Commissioner Kevin Beckner (the voter's cure for Brian Blair). Mechanik is an influential land use attorney who you might remember for pushing this sprawl recently. He is also a campaign contributor to Hagan, in fact, this contribution last fall was listed as in-kind which means a non monetary donation like donating goods or services rather than cash.





Sep 15, 2009


David Mechanik


305 South Boulevard


Tampa, FL 33606


Attorney


I


INK


$392.09




If Mechanik is close enough to be doing in-kind work, it seems feasible that he could have updated him on the stadium proposal now doesn't it? It is not a crime to contribute to politicians or even update them on pet projects (except future re-zonings) it just shows he knows which wheels to grease at least on our County Commission. How about a look at some of the players (that we know about) and a little game of connect the dots via campaign contributions.


According to my search of Mechanik has contributed to Chairman Hagan four times individually for a total of $1392.09 and another three times from his firm for $1,500 making that total to $2892.09 to just Hagan over the years. And one of his partners is named Frank Hearne, I found a Frank Hearne listed whose individual contributions add another $1000 to the Hagan pot making the total to $3892.09.


The Fair Authority only has one Hillsborough County Commissioner on it and that is Commissioner Kevin White (feeling good about this yet?) Another search found several contributions from Mechanik and his firm to White as well and yet another in-kind contribution worth over $400.00.





Jul 28, 2009


David Mechanik


305 S Boulevard


Tampa, FL 33606


Attorney


I


INK


$420.22




According to my search all totaled in-kind and regular contributions from Mechanik and his firm to White over the years are $2,920.22. According to this article it was more like $3250 since they added a partner's contribution from the firm. Mechanik also held a fundraiser for White last year and this article suggests that maybe White's recent vote in favor of a client of Mechanik's could be a payback. You can be the judge.


The development group associated with this project according to this article is called Land Sharks (how appropriate) and it is affiliated with Ronnie Duncan a former Pinellas County Commissioner who is President of a commercial real estate development firm, The Duncan Company. A former politician with development ties.....what are the odds? Which potential players did Duncan contribute to? According to my search on the Hillsborough SOE site, County Commissioner Ken Hagan several times over the years adding up to $850.00. There was another $500 listed to Hagan from an Ann Duncan from the same address as Ronnie. Did I mention Duncan is the Chairman of TBARTA (the regional transportation authority) where County Commissioner Ken Hagan sits as the only Commissioner from Hillsborough? Duncan seemed to deny being involved with this stadium thing in this post on BayBuzz back in Feb but I reviewed a document for the Fairgrounds proposal and The Duncan Company was listed right at the bottom of the page associated with Land Sharks. Hmmm.


David Kemper who is listed as Senior Vice President of WilsonMiller (one of the other companies associated with the proposal) has contributed to both White and Hagan.


Looks like this is a lot of the same players just on a different field. Instead of County Center it is the Fairgrounds.


Here is another article that lists a few more players associated with a new stadium idea but not with the Fairgrounds proposal.


The Fair Authority Board met last Wednesday where Republic Development presented their proposal and according to this article from the Tampa Tribune the developers downplayed the stadium part. They did admit to a shopping mall and a hotel (cause we don't have enough of those already in Florida we now need to squander public land on them?) They also admitted to a soccer complex (Championship Park anyone?) Maybe Mr. Mackinnon needs to be reminded that the Fairgrounds is owned by the state and the Fair Authority is overseen by the Agriculture department (as opposed to the malls, hotels and restaurant department). One of the Fair board members did seem to remind everybody as his quote in the Tribune pretty much summed it up:


Billy Bowman, a board member, said the Fair Authority's mission is agricultural.


"It says nothing about having a shopping center," Bowman said.


Thank You Mr. Bowman!


Terry Flott, Chair of U-CAN, had this to say after attending the meeting:


"The back room wheeling and dealing with the good ole boy network appears to be alive and prospering.  It’s disgusting that Sandy McKinnon bloviates, on camera, that we (the State Fair Board of Directors) “are fully aware of sunshine laws BUT they sometimes get in the way”.


The ABC Coalition (yet another group pushing for a new stadium) will present their findings regarding the Rays to our Hillsborough County Commission on May 19th. Coincidence? I hardly think so. Shocking to anybody else that a developer comes to the conclusion that the Rays need a new stadium? uh-huh.


Meanwhile the Rays have anemic attendance so far this year and they are lobbying the Tampa Chamber to make this work. If people don't even want to spend cash on tickets then who do they expect to pony up the funds for a new stadium? Must be developer math. Do you want these backroom deals to turn state land into a commercial strip mall and a hotel being made outside of the sunshine? You can reach the Fair Authority here. You can reach our County Commission here.


I happen to think our Fairgrounds have one of the best horse show facilities in the state and probably the country so I don't want them to be paved over for a mall or hotel. So far they are saying that that the current facilities will remain but who can trust officials that think it is appropriate to do business like this?

Photo credit: Sylvar@Flickr.com

In a move that makes even some of the clowns over at County Center look respectable in comparison, the Florida State Fair Authority Chairman  "Sandy" MacKinnon callously seems to think Florida's Sunshine Laws  don't apply to him and even appears to offer votes on an upcoming land deal for the fairgrounds that just could include a new stadium for the Rays. As Bill Varian from the St. Petersburg Times reports, Chairman MacKinnon sought to keep the deal mum and even offered names of fellow Fair Authority board members that he thought would vote in favor of the proposal. David Mechanik, a well known land use attorney is working for the development group pushing the proposal and so is former Mayor Dick Greco. Take a look at the email MacKinnon sent the two.

On Oct. 27, MacKinnon sent Greco and Mechanik an e-mail.

"Dick and David," it read. "I always enjoy being with you guys and especially all the stories and deals of yesterday and yesteryear. Great fun. Attached are the members I think we can trust to stay mum and as well help to carry a vote when it may eventually be needed. Good luck and keep me in the loop on how it goes."

Why is that not kosher? Well, according to Florida's Sunshine Laws, members of the same body are not allowed to discuss issues that they will have an upcoming vote on unless it is at a publicly noticed meeting and open said public.

According to Varian's article:

State law prohibits two or more members of the same governing board from discussing issues in private that are likely to come before them in their official duties. It also prohibits people serving as conduits between board members to achieve the same ends.

Olin Mott was one of the board members listed by MacKinnon in that email to keep mum and help deliver the vote and evidently Greco was making the rounds to his buddy according to this excerpt from Varian's article:

Mott said he had coffee with Greco, a longtime friend, though he couldn't recall when. He said Greco briefly described the development concept and asked his thoughts.

Sure seems like that could be considered acting as a conduit.

MacKinnon is later quoted in that same article saying this:

"I know the media like the Sunshine Laws. And I understand the purpose of them," said MacKinnon, chief executive officer for Yale Lift Trucks of Florida & Georgia. "I could never run my business that way."

Does he know he is supposed to be running the Fairground's business that way? According to this website on the Sunshine Law, there are criminal penalties for knowingly violating it.

Shouldn't former Mayor Dick Greco also know about the Sunshine Law? (which MacKinnon should be operating under) or maybe that is how those 'deals of yesterday and yesteryear' MacKinnon referred to in his email were struck? According to my research Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine law was enacted in 1967 (the very same year Greco was elected Mayor the first time so even he should be aware of government in the sunshine especially since the longtime politician served as Mayor from 1967-1974 and again from 1995-2003 according to this bio on the city website.) Greco is thought to be toying with another run for Mayor. He can find out about Sunshine Law here. Kinda makes ya wonder what deals of yesteryear they were talking about doesn't it? I remembered that this recent article by Michael Van Sickler of the Times regarding sprawl and the foreclosure crisis references Greco and his annexing of New Tampa. I wonder if that was one of those deals?

Recall back in February the Chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission, Ken Hagan, opened Hillsborough's doors to the Rays (but he wasn't trying to steal them away from St. Pete) uh-huh. The Rays are under contract at the Trop with St. Pete until 2027 (that is 17 years away) in case anybody cares about honoring a contract.

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