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Vince Cavin
Jax Daily Record Monday, Aug. 1, 201612:00 PM EST

Vince Cavin resigns from Friends of Hemming Park

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by: David Chapman

Vince Cavin, the embattled CEO of Friends of Hemming Park, resigned over the weekend.

Friends board member Bill Prescott shared the news this morning at a meeting of the City Council’s Neighborhoods, Community Investments and Services Committee.

Prescott, a principal with Heritage Capital Group, will serve as interim director on a voluntary basis.

It’s not the only change, either.

Wayne Wood, Friends board president, will take on the additional role as programming coordinator.

Michelle Barth and Suzanne Jenkins will unpaid consultants.

Barth is the former chief strategy and development officer at Feeding Northeast Florida who will serve as an adviser for fundraising and development.

Jenkins is a former council member who will take over as director of strategic planning.

In a Friends news release Monday morning, Cavin said he hopes his departure “can alleviate … distractions related to past decisions and help push the necessary conversation” about the park’s direction.

The shakeup comes at a crucial time for the nonprofit, as its cash has dwindled to the point where it needs $150,000 that had been set aside.

The council committee was the first stop this week for that money, which was approved unanimously. The issue will be considered by other council committees and ultimately must be approved by the full council.

Friends has been under fire from council members recently for how $1 million in taxpayer dollars were spent. Those expenses included dozens of meals for staff members, paying nearly $25,000 to musicians to play music during lunchtime in the park and a trip to Ikea to purchase office furniture.

Council member Greg Anderson, who chairs a special committee on the park, said the nonprofit’s change “certainly is a step in the right direction.”

However, more needs to be done said council’s most vocal critic on the issue.

Vice President John Crescimbeni agreed Cavin’s resignation and the other moves are a step in the right direction.

“But I don’t think it’s a step worth $150,000,” said Crescimbeni, who had asked Wood and Cavin last week if they had considered resigning.

The special committee is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Aug. 10, a day after a full council meeting where the $150,000 could be approved.

In an email Prescott sent to several council members Sunday evening, he said the financial situation will improve with some changes the board wants to approve at its Aug. 9 meeting.

If awarded the $150,000, Prescott said in the email that close to $75,000 would be placed in a restricted account that would replenish grant money targeted for the Black Sheep kiosk in the park. That money was used by Friends for operating expenses when funds ran low. A little more than $17,000 would come from that account to pay a restoration company for work done to date.

The remaining $75,000 from the city would be used for operating expenses only, not events or programming.

Under a “bare bones budget,” Prescott said in the email, remaining expenses through Sept. 30 would be $58,000. That, combined with the nonprofit’s cash on hand would leave about $35,000, which would get the nonprofit through October.

Cavin began the Friends job in September 2014, when the nonprofit began managing the park outside City Hall.

He could not be reached for comment this morning.

[email protected]

@writerchapman

(904) 356-2466

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