Pensacola Politics

Hayward withdraws right of first refusal

June 14, 2013

hayward, 6:12
On Jan. 31, Mayor Ashton Hayward sent out a press release announcing his letter that asked the Emerald Coast Utility Authority for the Right of First Refusal on the utility’s property that once was home to the Main Street Sewage Treatment plant. Read Jan. 29 letter.

During his 2012 State of the City address, Mayor Hayward announced that he was looking at buying the land.

“Ownership of this key site will provide the city with the opportunity to incentivize high-quality future redevelopment,” said the mayor in June 2012.

The Right of First Refusal wasn’t exactly a fulfillment of his promise to the citizens, but it was a step in that direction.

The Jan. 31 release of his letter to ECUA was timed to offset the bad press about his botched nomination of David Penzone to the county’s RESTORE Advisory Committee.

The glow didn’t last long. In less than a month, Hayward backed out of the deal.

On Monday, June 10, we asked both the City of Pensacola and ECUA for any emails on communications between the mayor, City Administrator Bill Reynolds and ECUA Executive Director Stephen Sorrell. It was a test to see which government entity would fulfill the public record request first.

ECUA did.

We learned that 22 days after the grand announcement Mayor Hayward rescinded the request. The letter wasn’t received by Sorrell until March 4.

Meanwhile, Sorrell, not knowing that Hayward had backed out of his request, presented the Jan. 29 letter to his board on Feb. 28. Late that afternoon, he sent an email to Hayward saying that ECUA board approved:

  • Giving the City a Right of First Refusal for seven months
  • Setting 72-hour response time to exercise that right
  • Asking for $5,000 to bind the deal.

Hayward did not respond. Sorrell had to email him again on March 4, “Mayor, how do you want me to proceed?”

Reynolds responded with Hayward’s Feb. 22 letter: “Please see the attached which withdraws the City’s interest in the property.”

Here are the pdfs: Hayward transmittal.

BTW The City sent me this email at 3:56 p.m.. Thursday, June 13:

Mr. Outzen,

The email search is complete. The harvested email will be made available to the Mayor and Mr. Reynolds for their review. Once the email has been reviewed and burned to a disc, I will contact you.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you.


I will keep you posted on how long it takes Reynolds and Mayor to review the emails and release them to our paper.

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  • CJ Lewis June 14, 2013 at 9:28 am

    I wondered about this issue when I saw an ECUA ad for the land in the classified section of the PNJ. A transparent Mayor would have first consulted the City Council [Hayward didn’t do that, did he?] and then, if the decision was still to withdraw the letter, to call his CEO counterpart Sorrell – on the telephone – to explain his decision and given Sorrell as much notice as possible. Hayward should have then directed the Office of the City Clerk to hand-deliver the letter to Sorrell with the courier returning with a copy showing the date-time stamp of delivery to ECUA.

    This seems like a dumb decision, another in a long line of dumb Hayward decisions. Now that the City Council knows about it, because most of what they know about the city government they get from Rick’s Blog, what will they do? I predict they will do nothing, nothing at all. This is the downside of having a city government that has mutated into a weak Strong Mayor/Weak City Council form of government with the weak Weak Council led by the weakest of them all my District 1 Councilman P.C. Wu.

    Under the downward evolving Charter, Hayward is (yet) not a draconian monarch. (With Wu’s help, and Sam Hall’s help before Wu, Hayward is making steady progress in that direction.) In truth, other than being the titular legal and ceremonial figurehead of the city government (as was Mayor Wiggins), Hayward is basically the new City Manager (as was Al Coby). The so-called City Administrator “is not” the Chief Administrative Official of the City, that is Hayward’s job as self-described “CEO,” a term that does not appear in the Charter or City Code. We know this because all references in the Code of Ordinance to “City Manager” were changed to “Mayor.” Coby exercised “the executive powers of the City.” Hayward does the same.

    Where does one find the executive powers of the City? Does Hayward get to just make them up? No, the Governing Body of the City (City Council) determines the executive powers of the City as prescribed in resolutions and ordinances it adopts. If I were standing in the shoes of the City Council, I would grow a backbone and adopt a resolution directing Hayward to do whatever it is we wanted him to do to include resending the Right of First Refusal letter back to ECUA along with a letter of apology for being such a fool.