Pensacola

Budget analyst might reveal details of legal fees

April 6, 2017

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?

 

Bayview Cross  $69,299.67
ECUA Wells  $108,832.74
Pitt Slip  $69,812.68
   $247,945.09

 

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.

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* 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.

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1 Comment

  • Reply CJ Lewis April 6, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    In brief, the so-called “action” of the City Council last month is of no legal effect because what they tried to do can only be done by ordinance “and” (one part) by charter amendment. The City Council did not adopt an ordinance to amend the existing Budget Analyst ordinance changing the qualifications and responsibilities of the position and did not propose a charter amendment asking voters to amend the City Charter to make it harder for the City Council to terminate the Budget Analyst. Adding insult to injury, Mayor Hayward’s so-called “veto” is similarly of no legal effect because the City Charter limits his veto power to ordinances and resolutions. Last month, the City Council did not adopt an ordinance or a resolution. The unexplained part is that Council Executive Kraher, City Clerk Burnett and City Attorney Bowling seem to know none of the above. If they do know, they have kept very quiet, at least in public. On the upside, the City Council has had the “express” authority to hire a Budget Analyst since early 2016. On the downside, the low pay scale compounded by badly written qualifications and responsibilities ensure that anyone who might apply would be seeking an entry level position and as such provide very little added value. What Councilwoman Cannada-Wynn should do is resubmit her proposal in the form of an ordinance and include a higher pay rate to match the new qualifications and responsibilities. Better yet, Cannada-Wynn should ask Escambia County to provide a copy of its position description for its Senior Budget Analyst. That would be a good starting point with some upgrades and a bump up in pay. Because no one on the City Council seems to have any executive experience, they seem to not realize that the money spent on a Budget Analyst will pay for itself very quickly because the person will be able to see the budget tricks used by Hayward and the City Managers before him to deceive the City Council.

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