PNJ fumbles editorial on Penzone

January 30, 2013

The daily newspaper and its weekly columnist missed the point about the Pensacola City Council’s rejection of the appointment of Dave Penzone as the city’s representative on the the Escambia County RESTORE Advisory Committee. They portray the council has fumbling the process and playing petty politics.

The News Journal has clearly misstated the facts and overlooked the blunders by the mayor, city administrator and city attorney.

Here are a few inaccuracies:

In the editorial, PNJ states:

…the council faces a Thursday deadline to appoint someone to the committee that likely will meet and make recommendations to the County Commission by the summer.

No, it’s the City of Pensacola–both mayor and council– that face the deadline. Both the mayor and council have to agree on the appointment.

Yesterday, IN reporter Jeremy Morrison asked city spokesman Derek Cosson if Mayor Hayward had decided on another choice and was told the mayor was considering his options—which seems to suggest that the mayor knows that it’s up to him to submit another nomination to the council.

“(Penzone’s) status as a paid pension adviser hardly makes him a city employee, which is forbidden under the RESTORE Act.”

No council member ever said that Penzone was a city employee. They questioned that he was a contract employee–having been paid over $40K to work on the pension negotiations. City Administrator Bill Reynolds argued the Penzone’s company (of which Penzone is the only employee and is operated out of his home) was an city vendor, not a contract employee. City Attorney Jim Messer wasn’t that supportive of Reynolds’ stance.

Though we strongly disagree with the council’s decision, we accept it and urge them to huddle quickly and appoint someone by Thursday’s deadline.

It’s up to the mayor to submit a new nominee. After all, he is the STRONG MAYOR.

What we can agree on is the following statement by the PNJ editorial board:

Knowing the tension between the council and mayor, Hayward’s office could have handled this better and had a Plan B.

The mayor did not make an official announcement on the nomination of Dave Penzone. He never gave the public or the city council his reasons for selecting Penzone. He waited until nine days before the Jan. 31 deadline to have Reynolds inform the council and make a last minute addition to the Jan. 24 council meeting agenda.

The “special committee of the whole” that the mayor and Reynolds called for Friday, Jan. 25, giving only a 12-hour notice, was unlawful. And even if it had been lawful, any vote taken would have required yet another official meeting to make the council vote legal.

The bumbling of that meeting required the city council to take leadership and call for lawful emergency meeting for Monday, Jan. 28. The mayor didn’t show up to explain his selection—which the PNJ did for him in today’s editorial — or personally answer the council’s concerns.

There are times the Pensacola City Council has deserved criticism, but this isn’t one.

Hayward created this mess. He had an opportunity to clean it up and refused to explain and defend his selection. And now he wants the blame placed elsewhere.

Note: There is just about anything I would rather do than write about the Pensacola City Hall Circus, but I couldn’t let the city council get targeted for something that is so obviously the mayor’s fault.

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