Pensacola Politics

Power struggle over council agenda

May 6, 2011

The Pensacola City Council agenda for the May 9 Committee of the Whole has been posted and Council President Maren DeWeese has left off the Mayor Ashton Hayward’s recommendation to name the Messer Law Firm as interim city attorney from the Action Item part of the agenda. Instead, it is only listed as a Discussion Item.

Former City Attorney Rusty Wells served his last day on April 15. Mayor Hayward had asked the city council to add his recommendation for Messer to its April 19 committee meetings agenda. He later pulled the item after DeWeese had objected to request because it “circumvented the established policy of presenting items through the Council President.”

According to the Mayor Hayward, Messer had met with all the council members, except for Sam Hall and DeWeese. He believed that he had the votes to pass his recommendation. However, he agreed to hold off and wait for the May 9 agenda.

DeWeese’s decision to put the Mayor’s recommendation on the May 9 agenda as an Action Item creates a charter issue. Does the Council President have the power to deny an agenda request of the Mayor?

The new City Charter is silent to the establishment of the council agenda. However, it is clear on the Mayor’s power and his duty to make recommendations to the City Council:

Section 4.01. Mayor
(a) Powers & Duties.
(3) To present recommendations to the City Council on the requirements of its municipal government.

The City Council President’s role is also defined:

Section 4.03. City Council Procedures
(e) President, Vice President of City Council. …The president shall preside at the meetings of the City Council and in his or her absence, the vice president shall preside. The president shall perform the duties consistent with the office and as otherwise imposed by the City Council.

The Pensacola City Council Rules & Procedures does address the establishment of the agenda and says it will be done in collaboration with the Mayor:

Section II: Rules And Procedures
9. Council And Committee Agenda Procedures ….All agendas are prepared by the President of City Council in collaboration with the Mayor.

Setting the debate over the interim city attorney aside, the real issue at play here is who decides the Pensacola City Council agenda. It doesn’t appear to be the intent of the charter for the Council President to have the power to block recommendations from the Mayor being brought forth to the full council for a vote. Neither does it appear to be the intent of the Council rules and procedures.

There should be an open debate at the May 9 council meeting before any discussion of the interim city attorney. Council President DeWeese has objections to Messer, but those should be brought up as part of a council discussion-not used as means to keep a recommendation from the Mayor off the Action Item portion of the agenda.

The Pensacola City Council needs to decide where it stands on this issue. Then Mayor Hayward can decide his course of action

Here is the May 9 agenda.

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