CHAIR OF TAMPA'S AFRICAN AMERICAN ADVISORY COUNCIL REMOVED-Andrew Stelzer

02/16/06

The chair of Tampa mayor's African-American advisory council has been removed from his position. While the city says that James Evans resigned, Evans said he was removed because he was critical of the city's support of the black community.

ACT-Evans “I've always had a good relationship with Pam Iorio until I questioned the city's investment into the black community…�

Tampa has no African-American chamber of commerce, and the hefty fees involved in joining the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce are often burdensome for small and minority business owners. Meanwhile, for over 20 years, the mayor has had an African-American advisory council, with 19 members. James Evans had been the chair for a little over a year, when he sent Mayor Pam Iorio a letter.

ACT-Evans “I sent a letter to the mayor about my concern...what does this council do, what role does it play?�

Evans also expressed concern that the city had declined to support his own personal venture--the Tampa Bay African-American business directory, which is used to raise money for Evans' Tampa Bay Academy of Hope, a non-profit organization benefiting youth...Evans has for several years annually published the directory, and was hoping to increase from 5,000 to 100,000 copies.

ACT-Evans “This is an incredible business resource. We aren’t charging, and I expressed that it is unfortunate they aren’t supporting it again. This could help African- Americans...It became extremely difficult for me to stay on the board. I said I would have to consider resigning, I never said I would resign. Within days I received a letter stating, 'I regret your resignation.' No. After I've served as your chair for 12 months, and all of a sudden you send me that letter!�

Fred Hearns is director of the City of Tampa's Department of Community Affairs. He said that based on Evans' letter, the mayor determined he wasn’t the proper person to serve on the council, and especially as its chair.

ACT-Fred “There were a lot of things said in that letter. He said he had no confidence [In what? Is something left out here?]...Well, if those are his feelings, how could he serve as chair of the committee? One serves at the mayor's pleasure. All the other 18 said they intend to remain on the council, that they support the decision the mayor made, and

[and...what?]

Evans responded with a letter stating that he had in fact not resigned, to which the mayor replied that she accepted his resignation. Eventually, the two spoke by phone. Evans said the conversation was frustrating.

ACT-Evans “We had an hour-long conversation. It went in circles. I said I'm not resigning, you must be firing me.�

James Tokey, the chair of the African-American Advisory Council and a WMNF programmer, declined to comment beyond saying that he hopes everything works out to an amicable solution. Tokley was not sure if Evans is still technically on the council. Hearns said indeed Evans is no longer on the council, and has not been invited back.

ACT-Fred “The mayor accepted the resignation. He said he wasn't resigning. The mayor said she considered it a resigning, and thanked him for his year of service as chair."

The city has financially supported the business directory for the past 4 years. Evans said he had also received a promise from Hillsborough county that they would match any money the city contributed, so when the city said they would no longer contribute, it was a deep financial blow to the directory. Evans said that in the past, the city had contributed between 7 and 8,000 to the directory, and had done so outside of the normal budget process. Hearns could not confirm whether that was the case, but he doubts the city would or could circumvent their normal process.

ACT-Fred “You have to remember, James had a meeting asking for $5000...The mayor said: 'James, you know we are supportive, but we have a budget process. It starts at the beginning of the year, not September or October.'...That process was explained, but he felt there was a way to circumvent it. I guess he felt the mayor should have given him the money regardless. It just doesn’t happen that way in government�

Hearns said that in his meetings with Evans in September, he told Evans the city purchased an ad in Evans' business directory, using money allocated by HUD to promote fair housing efforts. Hearns said that while the mayor never suggested any conflict of interest on the part of Evans, there was also no obligation for the city to fund the business directory as part of the city's support of the African-American advisory council.

ACT-Fred “These are two separate issues: we don’t support the directory, there has never been a vote...[they don’t???] support it.

To learn more about the Tampa Bay African-American business directory, log onto www.tampabayblackbusiness.com

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