After a 45-day wait, something arrived.
But the public records request returned to The Islander April 30 was lacking in the requested information and supporting attachments and void of requested emails concerning the planning and execution of two high-dollar tourist tax projects.
More than two dozen files with hundreds of pages were provided by Debbie Scaccianoce, Manatee County public records division manager.
The newspaper first made the information request March 15.
Included in the records were total ticket sales for a series of concerts sponsored by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau that took place Feb.8-April 1. The BACVB spent $100,000 to sponsor the the series, which featured four concerts at the Center of Anna Maria Island and one show at the Manatee Center for Performing Arts in downtown Bradenton.
Though MCPA chief executive officer Janene Amick had promised an in-depth accounting for costs and profits from the shows at the Manatee County Tourist Development Council meeting April 10, only an estimate of “around $50,000” in ticket sales revenue was earmarked for the split between the island community center and MPAC. Amick stated the concerts raised “about $94,000” in ticket sales.
She also stated the $100,000 sponsorship money was paid to the producer, Pittsburgh music promoter Rich Engler.
Public records provided April 30 revealed the following totals for the island center’s ticket sales: The Outlaws, $26,888; B.J. Thomas, $21,063 and $35,582 for the Marshall Tucker Band. An estimated total for Phil Vassar was $11,224.80, putting total ticket sales at the center at $94,757.80.
Judy Collins ticket sales at MPAC were discussed, and $25,211.00 was the largest total sales for those tickets found among the records submitted.
Specific costs for bands hired, including added riders on contracts and expenses such as meals and hotel stays, were mentioned in emails, but attachments listed in the emails were not provided to The Islander.
Entertainment contracts also were missing from emails provided.
No contractual information was provided regarding Engler, although emails indicate he was pushing to increase ticket sales.
Despite a request for records of expenditures for holding the concerts at the center, only minimum discussion was included, such as chair availability, an electrician visit, lighting needs from MPAC and sound requirements. No invoices, estimates or actual costs were furnished in the records request.
As for documentation for the art icon purchased from celebrity Jane Seymour for the Bradenton Riverwalk — unveiled Jan. 18 — and the accompanying events — a private art show and reception at the Studio at Gulf and Pine and an afternoon program at MPAC featuring Seymour and her son — only minimal documents were supplied to The Islander, despite specific requests for emails from county employees known to have been involved with planning the events.
Less than a dozen emails were dated before Jan. 1, despite the mid-January events, and no documentation, not even the partial expenditure report The Islander had previously been furnished by County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, was provided.
Also present in the files was an email from Scaccianoce advising that no information should be given directly to the newspaper and all requests for information should go through her.
When contacted by email May 8 with a further request for records, Scaccianoce emailed that “all documents in the possession of the Manatee County BOCC relevant to the concert series and the Jane Seymour Statue” had been received by The Islander.
She advised the paper to contact Realize Bradenton and MPAC for the balance of the information “as we are not the custodian of those records.”
In a May 8 exchange with The Islander, Scaccianoce stated, “With regard to emails, I would need the names of the Manatee County employees involved in the email exchanges. Once I have the names, I will conduct the search and provide you with the records, or a cost estimate if it requires extensive use of staff time.”
For the record, The Islander first placed a public records request with Manatee County March 15.
The request was clarified March 26 with a list of names, events and any references to events from August 2018 forward.
On April 11, The Islander received a series of documents, all of which had been previously sourced by the newspaper’s reporters.
In response to the lack of pertinent information received April 11, The Islander publisher and owner Bonner Joy, in an email dated April 16, further inquired about the lack of documentation and records between MPAC, the Center of Anna Maria Island, the entertainers or the promoter since taxpayer money was spent to put on the events.
The only record of costs for Manatee County for which documentation was received was a county purchase order dated Feb. 11, with MPAC listed as the vendor and BACVB listed as “ship to” for $190,000. Included was $100,000 detailed as concert series sponsorship and $45,000 as sponsorship for Jane Seymour “Up Close and Personal: The Open Heart Philosophy and Open Heart Monumental Sculpture on Jan. 19.”
Several calls and followup emails from The Islander to the county records department have gone unanswered.
For the record
The state of Florida has a broad public records law. It provides information on public records, including policies, inspection, examination and duplication of records, according to stateofflorida.com.
Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law assists the public and governmental agencies in understanding the requirements and exemptions to Florida’s open government laws. It was designed to guarantee that the public has access to the public records of governmental bodies in Florida.