Jeremy's Notebook

City Council Declines Investigations

July 15, 2013

haywardWhile attempts at two different investigations into Mayor Ashton Hayward’s administration failed to gain enough traction, Pensacola City Councilman Charles Bare’s recommendation that the mayoral budgetary authority be curtailed will live to see Thursday’s regular council meeting.

“I would caution the council and the citizens,” said Hayward at today’s agenda review session, “what we’re reading and talking about right now is going to slow government, it’s going to slow government up.”

Councilman Bare is requesting the council consider limiting the mayor’s authority to transfer money between expenditure categories and departments within the city’s budget; he recommends the mayor seek council approval for anything beyond $50,000.

“I think it ensures that we know what is going on in our budget,” Bare told his fellow council members.

Council President P.C. Wu spoke against furthering such conversation. He said the limitations would be “contrary to the will of people,” in a reference to the city’s change in governance. The president eventually requested that the item be removed from this week’s agenda, though that effort failed on a 5-4 vote; Vice President Jewel Cannada-Wynn, council persons Larry Johnson and Brian Spencer and President Wu lost out to council persons Gerald Wingate, Andy Terhaar, Megan Pratt, Sherri Myers and Bare.

The council was less receptive to the possibility of investigating either expenditures of Local Option Sales Tax funds for furniture and renovations to the mayor’s seventh floor offices, or the issues recently touched on in a State Attorney investigation. Bare found his only support, on both issues, in Councilwoman Myers.

“I think the public is going to be looking to the city council to take some sort of affirmative action,” Myers said.

Earlier this month, the State Attorney charged former City Administrator Bill Reynolds and Press Secretary Derek Cosson with non-criminal public records violations. The investigation also revealed that Reynolds had leaked information about an employee complaint pertaining to former Chief of Staff John Asmar to former city councilwoman Maren DeWeese.

Bare urged the council to discuss launching an investigation into possible illegal activities occurring within the city administration.

Rob Larkin, an attorney hired by the city to handle labor issues, recommended against probing such matters. He noted that the State Attorney had already done so and failed to bring charges, that the city administrator had since been fired and that any investigation by council would be “a waste of time.” The attorney also advised that the information involved was confidential and an investigation could reveal sensitive information and result in the council members being held personally liable.

“You would do so on you on prerogative,” Larkin said of the possibility of launching an investigation and any resulting consequences. “And that would be your own personal liability.”

The council had little appetite for such ventures. Cannada-Wynn said that issue had already been dealt with by the mayor and Johnson said delving into such issues would be akin to “putting toothpaste back in the tube” and redundant.

“I don’t want to charge the taxpayers twice for an investigation that’s already been done by the State Attorney,” Johnson said.

Bare’s suggestion to look into Local Option Sales Tax expenditure failed on the same 7-2 divide. Both investigative items were removed from Thursday’s regular meeting agenda.

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  • circus time July 16, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    oh my goodness – I found the video and it simply confirms George’s findings of stumbling, bumbling and mindless meandering

  • transparently July 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    where is the video of yesterday’s meeting – unable to find it on the city website

  • helpmehere July 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    George – you vividly point out the fact that this council has no agenda for moving the city forward. They simply react to the stuff that is thrown up against the wall by staff to see if it sticks. Very similar to what is going on at the county – drama, petty politics and no substantive action. The circus music is deafening and louder than ever before.

  • George Hawthorne July 16, 2013 at 11:36 am


    Obviously you don’t know me too well. EVERYTHING I say on blogs I say in Council/County Meetings and to the individuals directly.

    Furthermore, what I say in blogs is less than 25% of what I say to individuals in leadership roles in this County/City. See I don’t “vent” I provide written
    solutions, alternatives and prudent advice as a way to serve public good directly to the individuals that can effect change.

  • CJ Lewis July 16, 2013 at 9:28 am

    No surprise that the passive Council majority has no appetite to exercise legislative oversight, a duty they have been unwilling to undertake since January 2011. At the urging of Hayward’s legal advisor Larkin, who very oddly claimed – as he sat next to Hayward giving legal instructions to the Council – to be representing the Council too, the Council is unwilling to “discuss” on Thursday even nicely asking to see what else the State Attorney’s Office uncovered during its very limited inquiry of Reynolds’ leaking of documents. City Attorney Messer hyper-dramatically compared his old sidekick former City Administrator Reynolds to NSA-leaker Edward Snowden. Perhaps Messer also expects Reynolds to seek municipal asylum in Alabama where he lives.

    The Council will likely never get a chance to grill Hayward under oath about why he did nothing after learning on March 7 that Reynolds had leaked the documents. Hayward may even have found out earlier on March 6 if Councilman Spencer forwarded his copy to Hayward. The Council knew almost right away and said nothing. They are complicit too. The best explanation remains the simplest – Reynolds acted at the direction of Hayward or Reynolds told Hayward what he intended to do. The leaking was far more extensive than reported in the media to date. The most ironic incident was someone on the receiving end of Reynolds’ e-mail leak, done using an account called “Truth at City Hall, who unwittingly sent the documents “back” to Reynolds the morning of March 6 asking if he had seen them! As we know, Hayward did nothing until the PNJ Editorial Board threatened him. Reynolds silence to date would make even more sense if Hayward allowed him to resign vice actually firing him as reported in the media.

    With respect to the Asmar twist to the story, it seems very serious and best summarized in his own words, “I have documents, emails, text messages and video tapes that document a pattern of unlawful behavior in the Office of the Mayor and show a total disregard for Florida law, the city charter and city policies.” Yikes! The State Attorney’s Office would only have jurisdiction over any criminal violations of law. The alleged lawbreaking is likely far more extensive. The Council does not want to know even if Hayward violated the Charter or exceeded the executive powers of the City adopted by the Council in the form of city ordinances, resolutions and policies. The Council seems to think that the “buck” stops with Reynolds, Hayward not knowing enough about what happens in the “Office of the Mayor” to have been involved.

    Lastly, George Hawthorne makes a good point about the near-total lack of leadership on the “Lip Service” Council to include retread Jewel Cannada-Wynn who has been a GREAT disappointment. Her big contribution yesterday was to ask that the Council only meet once during the month of August. Someone should sit down and calculate how much money Council members are paid per hour of meeting time in addition to the other rewards of office to include taxpayer-funded pensions. This city is so screwed-up the Council should be meeting every week. My personal “substantive” issue would be a comprehensive review of the Charter. The Council has been threatening to do it since early 2010 when it first discovered errors in the Charter. A second substantive issue to investigate is the gerrymandering of the Council district boundaries in 2011 to include the racial dilution of Districts 5 and 7 with Council members John Jerralds and Ron Townsend “both” also voting YES seemingly to violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. No one would ever successfully accuse either of having moral courage.

    Yesterday we heard a lot of B.S. about how effective legislative and budgetary oversight would slow down the city government. I am all in favor of slowing down Hayward’s unlawful behavior giving us a better chance to detect it and squash it. As just one example, this Council still needs to explain why it believes that Hayward is not subject to a city law prescribing, “No bonus shall be paid to any employee unless specifically authorized by council.” With Messer and Finance Director Barker acting as his city treasury get-away drivers, Hayward claims he can nullify this law. Hayward’s Christmas 2011 “Bonusgate” cost $581,250 that comes out to $11.19 for every city resident. We have no idea what other bonuses Hayward has issued without the knowledge or consent of the Council let alone in violation of State law that governs the criteria for giving bonuses. Given the near-total lack of transparency in City Hall, this submissive Council has no idea what other laws Hayward ignores. Worse, most Council members do not care.

  • Henry July 16, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Pretty speech. Have you e-mailed this to the council members, or are you content to just vent in forums?

  • Ames July 16, 2013 at 8:05 am

    George- If only they knew how…

  • George Hawthorne July 16, 2013 at 1:28 am

    City Council Persons,

    Let’s look for solutions to make this a better City instead of finding reasons to continually take up issues that have little or no real value in improving the quality if life in Pensacola. You spent more time this afternoon talking about investigating the Mayor about $5,000 of furniture expenditures than you did about.

    1. Progress of the MGT Disparity Study recommendations.
    2. Maritime District LDC Overlay
    3. Or any other Agenda item that dealt with substantive issues of governance in the City

    Furthermore when it came time for Add-On items NONE of you had any items of real importance to the quality of life in Pensacola. However, again it was another “non-starter” item of investigations into an issue that was handled by the SAO and resolved,

    Clearly, since you collectively seem to have no ability to come up with substantive legislative issues to address in our city, let me assist you by providing you a list of items the “citizens” would like you to address.

    1. Conducting a comprehensive workshop on crime in our city and have the public give input to the council of the crime conditions in our neighborhood and seek input on solutions to the socio-economic conditions that lead to crime (remember 5 months ago you said you would conduct such workshop).
    2. Conducting another comprehensive workshop to develop strategies and recommendations to deal with the financial crisis and budget deficits for the CRA (you know it will go broke next year).
    3. Developing legislation that provides guidance to the Chamber of Commerce regarding how the City of Pensacola’s $250,000 allocated to them for economic development is spent to improve the economic development for small businesses located in the C.O.P.
    4. Developing a legislative package of development incentives to spur economic development along the Cervantes Corridor/Palafox North and Port of Pensacola.
    5. Developing a comprehensive planning workshop to identify potential projects within the City of Pensacola that will be submitted to the RESTORE Act Advisory Committee for funding from RESTORE Act funding.

    These type of “substantive” issues are what you should be focusing your time on instead of petty “gotcha politics” and trying to further erode the credibility of the City’s executive branch and also YOUR own.

    I say these statements out of great concern for the direction we are heading as a city and the perception that the divide between the legislative and executive branches is getting wider and the business of governance is getting less.