Escambia County Pensacola

Mayor Hayward and the Art of the Misdeal or How to sell a pony you do not own

July 6, 2017

What makes it difficult to do business with Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward is his obsession with secrecy, his poor communication with local government officials, and the mayor’s insatiable hunger for media attention and to receive credit for anything his perceives as being positive.

The Pensacola mayor didn’t come clean with the Escambia Board of County Commissioners when he told them, in a letter dated June 9, that he had only been invited to present to the New Orleans Pelicans on May 24, two weeks before he and his staff traveled to New Orleans to present his proposal to host a NBA developmental league team. See June 9 letter.

The invitation to present the proposal did come on May 24, but Hayward and his staff had known about the Pelicans’ Request for Proposal (RFP) for nearly two months.

Through public records released yesterday, Inweekly received a copy of the March 31 email sent by the Pelicans’ Stephen Pate directly to Mayor Hayward and his executive aide, Ben Ouellette, regarding the team.

From: Stephen Pate

Sent: Friday, March 31, 2017 4:17 PM

To: ‘’
Cc: ‘’

Subject: NBA G League – New Orleans Pelicans 03.31.17 – Pensacola, FL

Mayor Hayward –

I hope you’re doing well. Please see the attached RFP and letter from Mr. Benson regarding the formation of a new NBA G League team in the Gulf South. We are so excited to send this to you and the city of Pensacola. Due to our commitment to be more green, we will only be sending an electronic copy of the RFP. Please let me know if you would like a hard copy as we would be happy to mail that to you. On behalf of our entire organization we look forward to working with you!

Best regards-

Stephen Parker Pate
Executive Director of Community and Governmental Affairs
New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans
5800 Airline Drive
Metairie, LA 70003

Pensacola appears to have been pre-selected to submit a proposal. For Pate to know to include Ouellette on the email indicates there were probably conversations between Hayward and the Pelicans earlier than March 31.

Mayor Hayward did not share the RFP with the Pensacola City Council or Escambia County Commission. He seemed to have taken a lackadaisical approach and almost missed the deadline to let the NBA team know of his intent to make a proposal.

On April 21, Pate sent the mayor a reminder that the intent to propose was due: “I hope you’re doing well! I wanted to follow up on my previous email regarding the New Orleans Pelicans G League RFP. As a friendly reminder, today is the deadline for intent to respond. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.” Mayor sent his notification of his intent later that day. Read 17_04_21_IntentToRespond_Pelicans.

The public would not have known that the City was responding to any RFP if the Pelicans hadn’t sent out a press release on April 25. Still no official announcement of the details  was sent by the mayor’s office to the commissioners, city council or the public.

On May 5, Mayor Hayward sent the Pelicans a request for clarification. He wanted to know if a temporary facility could be proposed while a new one was being renovated or built and was there a minimum number of years for the agreement.  The mayor did not contact the county, the owner of the Pensacola Bay Center, about the availability of the Pensacola Bay Center or its concerns about any potential agreement.  See May 5 letter.

The mayor did not mention the RFP to the City Council or County Commission at their May regular meetings.

On May 24, the Pelicans sent out a request for the city to present its RFP in New Orleans on June 8. This is the invitation the mayor mentioned in his June 9 letter to the BCC, without giving them the details of his presentation or sharing his earlier communications with the Pelicans.

From: Stephen Pate []

Sent: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 9:02 AM

To: Ashton Hayward <>
Cc: Ben Ouellette <>

Subject: NBA G League – New Orleans Pelicans 06.08.17 – Pensacola, FL – RFP Presentation

Mayor Hayward –

I hope you’re doing well! As part of the final stages of the RFP process, we would like to invite you and the Pensacola delegation to come our practice facility and present your response to the New Orleans Pelicans G League RFP on Thursday, June 8th at 1:00pm. We are very excited about meeting with you and your team and hope this time slot and date works well for y’all. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Thursday, June 8th
New Orleans Practice Facility
5800 Airline Drive, Metairie, LA 70003
New Orleans Pelicans Team Meeting Room (Theatre)
1:00pm- 2:30pm- Pensacola Presentation (90 Minutes allotted)
2:30pm -3:00pm- Questions/Answers with Pensacola Delegation and Pelicans G League Committee
3:00pm -Pensacola Delegation departs.

Thank you sir –

Stephen Parker Pate
Executive Director of Community and Governmental Affairs
New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans
5800 Airline Drive
Metairie, LA 70003

The mayor’s office and the Pelicans would exchange several emails about the actual date for the presentation because of the mayor’s travel schedule. As late as May 31, the date and time hadn’t been settled.

May 31 was the day Mayor Hayward called County Commission chair Doug Underhill to tell him the developmental team to the Pelicans’ interest in the area. The call and subsequent letter happened only after county and Bay Center staff insisted some information be given to the commissioners.

Mayor Hayward sent Underhill a letter about the RFP but gave no indication that a presentation would be made soon. See May 31 letter.

The mayor’s office finally settled on June 7 to make the presentation. He took with him: Ben Ouellette, Executive Aide; Rebecca Ferguson, City of Pensacola Economic Planning Policy Coordinator; Brian Cooper, Director of Parks and Recreation; and Ray Palmer, President of Pensacola Sports Association. No one from the county or Pensacola Bay Center.

They met with Dennis Lauscha – Pelicans/Saints President; Mickey Loomis – Pelicans/Saints GM; Dell Demps – Pelicans GM; Ben Hales – Senior VP of Marketing and Business Development; Greg Bensel – Senior VP; Ed Lang – CFO/Senior VP; Mike Stanfield – Senior VP of Sales; Matthew Sharpe – Legal; Mike King – Database and Analytics Manager; Stephen Pate – Executive Director of Governmental and Community Affairs; Tommy Smith – NBA G League; and Eric Sherman – NBA G League.

The public would not have known about the New Orleans meeting if Inweekly hadn’t reported that it was happening.

Last week, Pate visited with some of the county commissioners. Pensacola appears to be in the running, but what it will cost to get them here hasn’t been announced. At some point, the public will get the details.

According to the documents received by Inweekly, the mayor and his staff have done no analysis of the viability of the new developmental league, its potential economic impact on our area or what the actual costs would be —even though Hayward has had three months to do so.

At some point, someone is going to have to step in and work out the details – either the county commissioners, Visit Pensacola or Pensacola Sports. Hayward – with his ponies and balloon spiel — has been trying to sell the Pelicans a pony he doesn’t own.

We support exploring the NBA developmental league team coming to our area, but more facts and analysis need to be released. With Escambia County battling a possible budget shortfall and the city yet to release its proposed budget, we need to know the financial commitments required and from where Mayor Hayward believes the funds should come.

Stay tuned.


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  • Jami Sanderson July 6, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    The mayor seems to be a really nice guy. He also looks good. Both make for good “press.” But I’ve heard interviews with him on the radio and find myself thinking afterward, “What did he just say?” as he uses a ton of buzz words to fill time, but scarcely makes a point.

    It is sad that for the Pensacola’s first “strong mayor” under the new charter, citizens elected a person who is a poor manager. Maybe it will be cause to think a candidate’s qualifications through better.

    • George Hawthorne July 7, 2017 at 11:55 am

      The Mayor is good at making speeches and “nice sounding” ideas, however, can not and has not been able to effectively govern and administer the City’s business and legal affairs.. His familiarity with the truth is non-existent.

  • Mary Mead July 6, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    These are important incidents. In addition Mayor Hayward is violating my constitutional right to operate my business as I was fully authorized, by due process, by the Pensacola City Council during their regular meeting on January 11, 2001, to operate an art gallery/antique shop with functions.
    It all began when I was having an authorized function, a wedding, on my business property on March 19, 2005, shortly after Ivan hit and while City Officials were secretly planning the Maritime Park at the end of our street, Spring Street. A Policeman came up the wrong way on Spring Street (one-way at that time) with lights flashing. He falsely stated that I was not authorized to have functions and that I was closed down. He said he had received a complaint. I told him I was authorized and it was recorded in City records and even online in the Council Files section. He said I was closed down and that was that. He did not have a single piece of paper as authority only direction or misdirection from his supervisors. There had been no prior notice of any problems, no hearing where I could correct any false information, and no complaints in the 25 years of operation (including the previous owner). The Police Department does not have the legal authority, without due process (which would require a legal reason or legal justification) to close my business down. But they did and have managed to keep me illegally closed down, without any income from my investment property, for over 12 years.
    I immediately reported and continue to report these illegal actions to the Pensacola Police Department, Pensacola City Officials, the Pensacola City Council, the Escambia County Sheriff, the State Attorney and even the Governor. All refused to stop the illegal closing and lift the illegal prohibition on me operating as I was authorized. Over the years, when I finally convinced officials that I was authorized, they then said I didn’t have enough parking. When I had proven that I exceed the parking requirement listed in City Ordinances and, in addition, my parking was legally grandfathered, they falsely stated that there were multiple complaints against me. I submitted a statement from Police Chief Simmons to City Officials stating the only things on my police record were responses to the house alarm system. After I presented that document, all officials I contacted refused to answer. They appear to be waiting until I die, I am 73. I have repeatedly reported this existing illegal situation to Mayor Hayward, the current person responsible for law and order in the City, and he consistently refuses, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, to lift the illegal prohibition on me operating my business as legally authorized.
    By being very frugal, it was almost a decade before I ran out of money and began having trouble keeping the maintenance up on my illegally closed business. The very Pensacola Police Department that illegally closed me down and refused to stop the apparent felonies against me are now sadistically harassing me on code violations, misdemeanors, that I would gladly fix if they would let me operate my authorized business and get income from my investment property. I have been very disappointed and saddened by the illegal actions of the Pensacola Police Department. I won best restored house while I was open and received regular compliments on the maintenance of my historic property.

    Mayor Hayward, please lift the illegal prohibition on me operating my business as I was legally authorized.

  • Liz Watkins July 6, 2017 at 11:27 am

    And Hayward was still re-elected and if he runs, the idiots that vote in the city will re-elect him again.

  • NotaGOB July 6, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Kind of reminds me of the guy that currently resides in the White House