City Administrator Eric Olson said Wednesday night that he felt compelled to comment in regards to a former city employee stating that she was let go following her refusal to “lie” to the Pensacola City Council about a planning issue.
“I want you all to know that is simply not the case,” Olson told the Pensacola City Council Wednesday. “That’s just a patently false statement on her behalf.”
Elizabeth Schrey, a city planner employed from 2012 to February of this year, told Inweekly on Monday that she was let go after declining to tell council that a proposal by Manna Food Pantries for a warehouse in a residential area was allowable.
She also said that city officials — specifically Planning Services Director Sherry Morris and Bill Weeks, head of city inspections — were aware that the radio tower Divine Word Communications had planned for the Long Hollow Conservation District was illegal.
Olson told council that, as a policy, the administration did not comment on “blog posts” or about “personnel issues,” but said he felt it necessary this time. He said if any council members wished to discuss the matter further they could come speak with him privately.
Olson did not comment on the legal opinions rendered by attorney John Asmar the new, larger radio tower was illegal and the lease for it was invalid.
During public comment, Bill Caplinger, a citizen who has been active in pursuing information regarding the Long Hollow tower, asked Olson if the rest of Schrey’s statements — namely, that city officials knowingly pushed an illegal project — were also false.
“Our policy is in general we do no comment on blog posts,” Olson told him.
Caplinger pointed out that, in addition to Inweekly, the Pensacola News Journal was also pursuing Schrey’s story.
“Mr. President, I don’t think this is the right forum,” Olson protested to Council President Charles Bare.
Bare agreed and told Caplinger that perhaps he should ask Olson such questions after the meeting.
Following the meeting, this reporter did ask the administrator if Schrey was incorrect on all counts.
“I think you heard what I told council,” Olson said, walking out of council chambers and into the hallway.
But did the heads of planning and inspections know it was illegal, as Schrey stated?
“Council has already said they’re going to investigate that,” he said.
Pushed for an answer, Olson deflected and headed deeper into city hall.
“I don’t have anything else to say about that,” the administrator said. “Not tonight. Not tonight, Jeremy, it’s 11 o’clock.”