Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward vetoed the Pensacola City Council hiring a budget analyst, a position the voters approved in a 2014 charter amendment. The council will discuss the veto next week.
Councilwoman Sherri Myers and others have asked why. In his veto message, the mayor said, “There are more pressing needs with the City of Pensacola that would directly benefit the taxpayers.”
Could be it be Hayward doesn’t want the council and public to know that he has spent more than the proposed salary range for the position, $26,270-$43,868, with one law firm on three cases just since July 1, 2016?
Two months after every quarter ends, CFO Dick Barker gives the City Council a schedule of legal costs year-to-date for each outside law firm. However, he doesn’t tell them what has been paid on specific issues or litigation.
In FY 2016, which ended Sept. 30, 2016, Mayor Hayward paid $1.429 million for outside legal services, an increase of 29 percent ($318,622.69) over the prior year.*
The upward trend didn’t fade during the first three months of FY 2017. According to the schedule supplied by Barker, the FY 2017 first quarter legal fees, $335,719, were nearly double the fees paid for the same period last year.
A budget analyst would track these expenditures and report them to the City Council and the public monthly. It’s the type of transparency Mayor Hayward as avoided over the past seven years.
* To more accurately compare the fiscal years, we deducted the payments of City Attorney Jim Messer whose fees were included in the FY 2015 Schedule of Outside Legal Costs. The current city attorney, Lysia Bowling, is a city employee.