On June 26, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward received a phone call from attorney Greg Miller of the Beggs & Lane law firm. The federal grand jury investigation of the mayor that began in 2014 had concluded finally.
Three months later, Nix Daniel of Beggs & Lane wrote City Attorney Lysia Bowling to inform her of the conversation Miller had with U.S. District Attorney Christopher Canova (without mentioning it took place on June 23).
“That investigation proved to be without merit,” wrote Daniel. “All of the matters which were subject of the investigation were within the scope of Mr. Hayward’s responsibilities as mayor. There was no finding of any wrongdoing on his part.” See Letter.
Inweekly has called and emailed Amy Alexander, the public information officer of the U.S. District Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. We have asked her to confirm Daniel’s statements and have not heard back.
The Beggs & Lane’s fees and costs for the representing the mayor totaled $43,684.23. Daniel asked that the mayor be reimbursed $13,500 for the installments he had paid from Dec. 31, 2014 to Oct. 6, 2016. He requested the city pay the balance due, $30,184.23.
On Sept. 28, Bowling sent City CFO Dick Barker a memo:
“The Florida Supreme Court and the state courts of appeal have long established a common law right of public officials to receive legal representation at public expense to defend themselves against charges arising from the performance of their official duties while serving a public purpose.” See Memo_9-17-17.
She told Barker that the city was legally obligated to pay the fees. Barker cut the checks.
The Pensacola City Council and citizens were not notified by the mayor that the federal grand jury had concluded with no finding of wrongdoing. Bowling did not tell the city council at its October or November meetings of Daniel’s letter and her legal opinion. Barker did not report to the city council that the taxpayers paid the mayor’s legal fees.
In September 2014, the News Journal was told the mayor would personally pay some of the legal fees incurred:
“Hayward has retained an attorney at the law firm of Beggs and Lane to handle his involvement in the federal investigation, which focuses on whether bribery might have occurred in the awarding of contracts to Pate, among others. Hayward is personally paying for at least some of those legal expenses.” (News Journal, “City’s contracts with attorneys questioned,” 9/25/14)
Mayor Hayward made 11 payments of $1,000 each to Beggs & Lane from Dec. 31, 2014 to April 8, 2016. From June 8-Oct. 6, 2016, he made five payments of $500 each.
Meanwhile, Beggs & Lane saw its legal fees to the City double going from $220,107 in FY 2015 to $540,613 and $476,039 in FY 2016 and FY 2017 respectively.
Check out – Invoices 85188 and 70984.
Note: The FY 2017 billing for Beggs & Lane was adjusted to $476,039. The city had duplicated two invoices in separate record requests.