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Chamber Moves Away From Sunshine Law

Greater Pensacola Chamber

Changes are in the works at the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, involving the Chamber’s fundraising arm. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody reports Foundation Incorporated is being moved away from Florida’s Sunshine Law.

Chamber CEO Jerry Maygarden made the announcement at Monday’s board meeting. He says when the Chamber decided to embrace the Sunshine and Public Records laws last summer, it had a serious impact on fundraising.

Having a stand alone foundation would protect the privacy of those contributing to the Chamber’s Vision 2015, a job creation program focused on recruiting new businesses, helping local firms expand and strengthening the military-private sector partnerships in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.

The Foundation currently is a 501-C-3 organization, donations are tax-exempt and tax-deductible. It would keep that status when moved out of the sunshine. The decision to operate under the law was made after a rather pointed opinion issued by State Attorney Bill Eddins. He sent a letter to the Chamber, reminding officials that they are one of the few private organizations that fall under the open meetings law.

The Pensacola Chamber receives over a half million dollars from the City of Pensacola and Escambia County each year to help pay for economic development services. Another 270 thousand in public funding comes from the city and county through the Pensacola Economic Development Council.

Also being moved to private status is the Chamber’s Armed Services Committee. CEO Jerry Maygarden says that’s a special constituency, much like minority- and women-owned business enterprises.
Another change deals with oversight. The Chamber’s executive committee has served as the Foundation’s board of directors. Maygarden says it’s time to separate the two and make the foundation an autonomous body.

The ten-member Greater Pensacola Chamber Foundation, Inc. Board will begin its work in the next few weeks.