In advance of a special meeting of the county commission called for 3 p.m. today, Franklin’s Promise Coalition has resigned as the county’s ESF (Emergency Support Function) 15 lead agency, a role in which it provides volunteers and helps raise donations for the county’s emergency management office.
In a letter sent Wednesday to county commissioners, Tamara Allen, president of Franklin’s Promise, wrote that the board of directors had reviewed the proposed ESF-15 contract sent them by County Attorney Michael Shuler, at a Tuesday meeting.
She said that while they received the contract July 24, August 14 was the first opportunity the board had to meet due to work and vacation schedules.
“We are unable to agree with the entirety of the document,” wrote Allen.
She wrote that the Franklin’s Promise board had offered to provide “alternate language and procedures” that, if approved by the county, would enable Franklin’s Promise to continue as the ESF-15 agency, as well as a participant in the emergency management office’s unmet needs committee, and as its long-term recovery organization.
“We have been informed by Mr. Shuler that there is no opportunity for discussion or compromise,” Allen wrote, adding that this made it necessary for Franklin’s Promise to resign as the county’s ESF 15. “We deeply regret that we were not given any opportunity to discuss our concerns and seek agreeable solutions.”
“We are totally committed as volunteers to serve the Eastpoint fire victims with every penny of the donations we have received for that purpose, and to make a full accounting of those funds to the commission, the donors and the public,” Allen wrote, noting that Emergency Management Director Pam Brownell has been invited to join the Franklin’s Promise board and serve as supervisor of these funds.
“She, along with a second board member, will be required to sign all checks,” Allen wrote.
Allen’s letter comes on the eve of a special commission meeting called for this afternoon to discuss and possibly take action on what the meeting notice said were “Franklin’s Promise Coalition’s failure to execute the ESF 15 contract and remedies available to Franklin County; possible termination of Franklin’s Promise Coalition’s status as the ESF 15 vendor, and possible litigation with Franklin’s Promise Coalition, to include, but not necessarily limited to, an action for a detailed accounting and audit of the donations it has received as the ESF15 from the Lime Rock Wildfire (and) a determination that its records relating to ESF15 functions and donations are public records.”
In her letter, Allen stressed Franklin’s Promise is “committed to transparency and full accountability,” and would prepare a detailed report on all donatiosn and volunteer hours for commissioners and the general public.
She also wrote that as a Florida not-for-profit, designated as tax-exempt, it is “registered and maintains the status to solicit contributions and donations as a Florida charitable organization by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”
“All our records are available to you and the public on their website,” Allen wrote. “We pledge to assist your new designees as Franklin County ESF-15 as they assume those duties.”
In her closing, Allen wrote that Franklin’s Promise had worked successfully with emergency management as an ESF-15 through several disasters.
“We have never taken administrative funds or salaries from any disaster donations,” she wrote. “Our all-volunteer board has been focusing our volunteer hours on helping the people affected by this fire, making donations ourselves and thanking others for their donations.”
Members of the Franklin’s Promise board also include Beth Brinkley, from Resort Vacation Properties, who is vice-chair; Fran Edwards, from the Ilse Newell Fund for the Performing Arts, who is treasurer; Susan Bassett, from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices; Nancy Culp, from DISC Village; Ginny Griner, from Weems Memorial Hospital; Shannon Hartsfield, from the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association; Deanna Simmons, from the Florida Department of Health in Gulf and Franklin Counties; Mindy Parker, from Franklin County Head Start, Early Education and Care; and Ed Aguilar, from the Forgotten Coast Fitness and Wellness Center.
The letter concluded by noting that Franklin’s Promise’s executive director, Joe Taylor, “is not paid out (of) disaster funds (and) also volunteers many hours to ensure the needs are being met.”
In his full-time role with the organization, Taylor earns an annual salary of $60,000.