Jeremy's Notebook

Council Leftovers: MGT, Zimmerman and the IP Mystery

February 26, 2013

While much of Pensacola City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting yesterday centered on the 4-cent gas tax and mass transit funding, there were also other matters tended to.

Chief Financial Officer Dick Barker presented the FY2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Clyde Mathis, director of the Port of Pensacola, gave council an update on port operations. Discussions were had about the outside employment of off-duty police officers, the status of ongoing noise-related regulation downtown, specifics of the council executive’s contract and the tree-planting trust fund.

The council also decided to enter into a $50,000 contract with MGT of America to have the company guide the city towards implementing recommendations stemming from last year’s disparity study the company conducted. A representative from MGT said the firm would assist the city with drafting ordinances, crafting policies and training in an effort to create a more equitable environment; additional costs would be associated with the actual implementation of the recommendations.

Also on yesterday’s COW agenda was an information item pertaining to the recent termination of the city’s marketing contract with the Tallahassee-based Zimmerman Agency. Council members had previously requested additional information on the matter.

City Administrator Bill Reynolds told council during a previous meeting that staff was compiling all relevant records pertaining to Zimmerman. Last night he told members they should have “every piece of paper, every email with regards to Zimmerman.”

Councilman Charles Bare asked the administrator if there would be additional Zimmerman information to come. He noted that former staffer Travis Peterson’s correspondences were not in the released records.

“His emails were not there,” Bare said.

“They should have been,” Reynolds replied.

Councilwoman Sherri Myers also raised concerns about the possibility that politically-fueled comments had been posted to by someone inside Pensacola City Hall. Rick Outzen, publisher of the Independent News and this blog, recently reported that numerous comments—favorable to the mayor, and at times critical of city council members and others—had been logged using various names, but stemming from the same IP address used by Public Information Officer Derek Cosson.

“This is something that, I believe, is something that the council should investigate,” Myers said.

In response to Outzen’s inquiry, Cosson has denied posting comments under false names. He said his girlfriend had logged one of the comments in question. The IP address, apparently, encompasses the entirety of city hall, which has free wi-fi.

Myers told her fellow council members that citizen Mark Taylor—who the council recently appointed to the Community Maritime Park Board of Trustees—had made a public information request for technical information which he thought would indicate specifically where the politically-flavored comments were coming from. She said council should also look into that information.

“I feel that the city council should be asking for this information,” Myers said, before the council piggybacked Taylor’s information request.

Council Vice President Jewel Cannada-Wynn asked if the city had a policy governing such activity by employees.

“What you don’t have is a policy on blogging and social media, which is needed,” said Reynolds, adding that Pensacola is the first place he’s worked without such a policy.

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