Impact largely unknown in city sports ambassador’s job filled by Artis Gilmore
Artis Gilmore is a bonafide sports legend.
A college hero at Jacksonville University, leading the school to its only NCAA basketball championship game 40 years ago.
A superstar at the professional level, a 2011 NBA Hall of Fame inductee with one of the best hook shots ever.
In April 2012, Mayor Alvin Brown appointed Gilmore to the newly created position of ambassador for sports, entertainment and physical fitness.
Brown said his fellow JU graduate would "cultivate key relationships" to help the city attract new events, serve as a public health advocate and be a role model for healthier lifestyles and good nutrition.
Eighteen months later, it's hard to gauge the value of the position, even on the heels of Gilmore's integral role in this month's NBA exhibition.
Partly because there's little documentation that shows what he does, partly because Gilmore wouldn't answer questions about his work and partly because many City Council members said they were unfamiliar with the goals and results of what has proved to be an under-the-radar position.
Even a list of 2013 highlights prepared by Gilmore at the request of a City Council committee had problems — his timecards did not have hours on about a third of those days and one event he said he went to was actually canceled.
Much easier to gauge is his pay. From April 9, 2012 to Oct. 18, Gilmore has made nearly $112,000 in the part-time job that pays $57.69 per hour.
He has routinely exceeded the weekly cap of 25 hours that was spelled out in his hiring letter and the majority of the days on his public calendar have no work-related information listed.
Both are areas that his boss, Alan Verlander, said could be improved upon.
"It's something that we have got to work on more closely," said Verlander, the city's director of sports and entertainment.
He said Gilmore is a great lead generator for potential events to come to Jacksonville. He said those events include powerboat racing, though there could be issues related to manatees in the St. Johns River.
The only concrete example of an event that Verlander and David DeCamp, Brown's director of communications, tied to Gilmore was the NBA exhibition, the city's first professional exhibition game since 2009.
Gilmore's connections brought several fellow Hall of Famers to Jacksonville, who visited schools to talk about education and interacted with fans during the two-day experience.
Several council members are skeptical about the purpose of the job, believing the money could be better used elsewhere. They also questioned whether accountability measures are in place for the appointed position, which serves at the pleasure of Brown.
"I think the mayor knew him (Gilmore), found a place for him and made up a title," said Matt Schellenberg, the council member who requested the information on what Gilmore has done. "… I haven't seen him do anything as a performance measure. … People should be held accountable."
Gilmore is eligible to receive a performance evaluation, DeCamp said, but there was not one in his personnel file.
Council President Bill Gulliford and others said they also were unaware of any measurable results for the appointed position.
"I would have thought the mayor and the administration would have made the council members aware of the activities of the position to better utilize his (Gilmore's) talents," Gulliford said. "However, in our current financial position I have to question the value compared to other needs in the city."
Among the higher compensated
When Gilmore was hired, the administration said his salary was $60,000. That is accurate if he worked 20 hours per week at his hourly rate of $57.69.
His hiring letter says he can work up to, but not exceed, 25 hours per week, which annualizes his salary at just under $75,000.
During Gilmore's 18 months, he has exceeded the 25-hour cap 84 percent of the weeks he worked.
Even with several weeks of unpaid vacation, Gilmore's salary for fiscal 2012-13, which comprised Oct. 1, 2012-Sept. 30, was more than $76,000, just over the cap.
Verlander is listed as the supervisor who approves Gilmore's timecards; though he admits he does not check every week. "If I am traveling or not there to approve it, it automatically will be approved by HR," Verlander said of Gilmore's time card. "So, I am not sure how many I physically did versus did not do."
When asked why Gilmore consistently exceeded the weekly cap, Verlander said, "We are looking at a lot of the reporting structures of how, maybe from an HR standpoint … we monitor that."
As a part-time employee, Gilmore does not receive benefits or a pension. Vacation days also are unpaid.
His hourly rate makes him the seventh-highest paid part-time employee for the city, behind five public safety employees and the city's ethics officer. The highest paid is Robert Kiely, who is scheduled to work 25 hours a week for the Fire and Rescue Department. He makes $94.96 per hour, with an annualized rate of $123,450.
Several council members said they were surprised by how much Gilmore was making. One said he thought Gilmore was one of the $1-a-year employees that Brown has used during his administration, such as the education commissioner.
Schellenberg said he thought Gilmore was a full-time employee who made $50,000 a year. When told otherwise, he said, "That makes it even more discouraging."
The Daily Record first asked to interview Gilmore and Verlander on Sept. 30, and made several requests after that. On Friday, DeCamp said neither were available to talk to the newspaper but provided a statement from Gilmore.
"Over more than four decades, I put my heart into being part of making Jacksonville a better city," the statement said. "That has continued during my time as a part-time employee in Sports and Entertainment. I have worked hard to promote the city as a destination, to emphasize wellness among seniors and fitness for our youth, and the value of education."
The newspaper sent an email Friday morning to Verlander, who agreed to be interviewed after a media briefing for Florida-Georgia traffic information.
During the budget hearings, Schellenberg asked for information on employees from the Office of Economic Development, because he said the department's budget had increased substantially. Verlander's sports and entertainment office is part of OED.
DeCamp said information for the list of highlights was provided by Gilmore. The list was not intended to include everything Gilmore has done, DeCamp said.
Of the 18 events listed, only three appeared on Gilmore's calendar.
Of the 10 single-day events that Gilmore said he attended, he did not have any hours on his timecard for five of those days.
When asked how accurate Gilmore's timecards were, including not recording hours he may have worked, DeCamp said, "We assume that the hours claimed reflect hours worked. … Under our policy, people are expected to claim the hours they worked."
Also, the list said the Jazz Festival was in March, though it was in May, and it said Gilmore participated in a meet-and-greet at the Blessing of the Fleet in March, though it was canceled.
Of the 15 events that Gilmore included a description of what he did there, nine used the same sentence: "Participated in meet and greet and served as an ambassador of the City for the event."
The description of what Gilmore did at One Spark ended in mid-sentence. "Encouraged participants to continue pursuing their goals while …"
Two of the events were out of town — three days in Houston for the NBA All-Star game and six days in Atlanta to visit the Wounded Warrior Project. DeCamp said Gilmore paid the expenses for those.
"I even drove to Houston on my own cost to promote Jacksonville as a destination for sports and entertainment," Gilmore said in his statement.
He provided receipts that showed he spent more than more than $1,000 on the trip.
Paid while on trips
Gilmore has been paid by the city while traveling out of town with JU, for whom he also works, as well as to an NBA Hall of Fame induction (not his) and to visit Joe Namath's children's charity.
Gilmore went to Boston on July 25-26 as part of the ASPIRE Road Show for JU, where he's been a special assistant to the president since 2007. Verlander was athletic director when Gilmore was hired.
DeCamp said it was appropriate for Gilmore to be on the city clock those days because he "promoted and represented Jacksonville's interests in the Northeast to encourage investment in the city. As one example, he was able to discuss opportunities in Jacksonville with alumni regionally."
Gilmore did the same thing Sept. 6 and 9-12, when he logged hours on his city timecard while he attended the Hall of Fame induction in Springfield, Mass., and visited Namath's charity in Long Island.
This notation was on his calendar: "I will be making contact with Celebrities, looking to create ways to include them in function (sic) here in Jacksonville."
It is unclear who paid for these trips, though Alexis Lambert from the city's Office of Public Accountability said there were no expenses paid for Gilmore by the city.
Verlander talked about those trips during an interview with the Daily Record.
"When he picks up the phone and calls, and says, 'I am going to be in Springfield' or 'I am going to be in Boston' and 'I'd like to come see you,' people take that call and see him. Where if it's Alan Verlander, and I don't have a relationship with them, they may or may not take my call."
Necessity of the role?
There is confusion among many council members about what an ambassador for sports, entertainment and fitness is supposed to do and disagreement over what it's potential is.
In addition to bringing events to Jacksonville, DeCamp said Gilmore participates in events promoting fitness for seniors and youths and being part of community engagement. He said those events are a "minority portion of the work he puts in."
It is unclear how Gilmore's presence can be requested by a community group. His contact information is not listed on the city's website, including on the list of staff members for the Sports and Entertainment Office. Nor is there anything about Gilmore's potential availability included on the website.
Verlander said the city markets Gilmore in conjunction with JU "because he does have functions with JU and us."
Of the 11 council members interviewed for this story (all 19 were contacted) most said Gilmore had not participated in an event in their districts. Some did not know the job had been created.
"Artis Gilmore is a great guy and does a lot for the community but I don't understand what the position is for," said council member Bill Bishop. "… In fact, I didn't even know the position existed."
Council Vice President Clay Yarborough and member Lori Boyer wondered whether Gilmore's job overlapped with Verlander's duties.
One person who worked with Gilmore on a special event talked about the benefit of having an athlete with his credentials working for the city.
Rick Dantzler was impressed by Gilmore when the two worked together on the worked with Gilmore on the August Florida Sports Hall of Fame enshrinement in Jacksonville.
"I don't know Artis' responsibilities with the city, but I can't think of a better ambassador," Dantzler said by email."… He's what our sports stars should be."
Council members Stephen Joost, Jim Love and Warren Jones agreed the position has the potential to be valuable, especially with someone who has the credentials of Gilmore.
"Obviously, he's an icon that can be used to impress people to come down here … particularly for sports," Love said. "He can be a tremendous asset to the city if he's employed properly."
But many of Love's colleagues didn't even know the former NBA superstar worked for the city.