A few months back, we brought you information that appeared to paint a picture of City Manager John Regan, steering city contracts towards design firms that had very close ties to his daughter, Michelle Regan.
The issue arose when it was discovered that the City Manager's daughter had a very close business relationship with Matthews Design Group, who was contracted by the city. John Regan admitted on video that his daughter, Michelle, did a 'tremendous amount of seamless work' with Matthews Design Group.
Regan said at the time that he had no idea of his daughter's involvement with the group with regard to city projects, and that he would ask MDG that she not be used on any further projects between Matthews and the city.
Martha Graham, who abruptly retired from her position just days after our story broke, also has her name splashed all over these newly uncovered documents.
After our story, and discussions with the Mayor, we were initially sent just two documents that showed the project was way behind schedule, and over budget. It took a public records request (which oddly costed over $400.00 and took over FIVE months to be sent) by the law firm, Keller Legal, to uncover even more sketchy involvement between the city of St. Augustine and Michelle Regan.
Michelle Regan's involvement in city business appears to have been well known by city officials, and goes back even further than we first thought.
This is what we now know, from the information that was provided to My 904 by Keller Legal...
Let's start a few years earlier in time. In an email exchange between the City of St. Augustine's Historic Preservation and Special Projects Planner, REG Architects, and Jon E Schmidt and Associates regarding the planning of a "Depot" project, Michelle Regan appears as the point of contact for Schmidt.
This email exchange takes place in 2013, while John Regan was managing the city, and Michelle Regan was employed with Jon E. Schmidt and Associates.
This shows that Michelle Regan and her former employer were in fact very much in the loop concerning city business as early as 2013, two years before her name would come up as having suspiciously close ties to another firm, Coulter and Hearing.
How on earth did the City of St. Augustine just coincidentally happen to find themselves working with the city manager's daughter on numerous occasions?
While city officials would have us believe that the Regan family stumbled into the Mathews Design business relationship on accident in 2015, these newIy released documents seem to tell a very different story.
It would appear quite obvious that Michelle Regan was taking full advantage of her father's position as the leader of our city, and used her family ties to influence city contracts, and potentially steer them towards multiple firms that employed, and/or contracted her. While she may not be personally listed on official city documents, she seems to be very much a part of making sure collaborations were coming together.
If that's not enough to show that there are, at the very least, massive improprieties going on within the city, we found even more damning information on the Matthews contract that set this whole firestorm in motion.
City documents show that in 2008, Matthews Design Group was hired on as the "Engineer" for a waterworks project in St. Augustine. Matthews Design was originally given 4 years to complete the project.
As the papers show, Matthews did not score first among firms at the time, not even second. Matthews was ranked third place for the job. They got the contract anyway.
Under terms of that contract, Matthews would initially serve as the engineer on the project for 4 years. The project could be renewed for a MAXIMUM of another 4 years (until 2016) if needed.
In 2012, after failing to complete the project on time, the city decided (for some reason) to renew the contract, and give Matthews the additional 4 years to complete it.
Things get really dicey in 2016, even after Regan had already admitted to the City Commission that his daughter worked closely with Matthews. Documents turned over by the city show that after another failed four years by MDG, a fully maxed out contract, and money down the drain, Regan unilaterally decided to amend the contract, and indefinitely extend the length of the agreement.
No votes. No public input. No additional bidding to see if there were better qualified firms, who could do the job as they said they would, and possibly save taxpayers money.
At this time, Matthews was ranked even worse than they were in 2008.
As stated in section 3 of the amendment, signed by John Regan, Rob Matthews (President of MDG), and City Attorney, Isabelle Lopez on Sept. 28th, 2016, "All other terms and conditions of the Agreement, including any subsequent amendments, are hereby ratified and continue in full force and effect."
This amendment means that at any time, for any reason, this contract can be further amended, extended, or altered in any other way, and without ANY further approval.
This amendment also implies that there could be more to come, as it is listed as "Amendment #1".
It would appear that Michele Regan's connections to the most powerful man in St. Augustine's city government paid off on numerous occasions for multiple firms, and this time, landed a subpar firm that she works "seamlessly with," an unlimited budget-busting contract with the City of St. Augustine, on a project that is 10 years overdue, and way over original cost estimates.
Where the hell is the oversight and accountability from this commission? There appears to be none.
Even earlier this year, as Commissioner Todd Neville said he thought it was time for new leadership in the city manager department, based on what he thought were numerous failed performance metrics, every other commissioner defended Regan's position and performance, with some commissioners even agreeing that the city should lower the bar for Regan's performance in order for him to meet expectations.
This MDG issue seems to be one of the most confusing and costly on a long list of blunders by the city.
As for the legal ramifications, Keller Legal is still inquiring about the ethics of this matter and whether charges can be brought against the city for this issue, which may quite possibly meet the standards for nepotism within the city's highest ranks.