Bowling insists she appealed gas tax independently

Since last week, City Attorney Lysia Bowling has told the Pensacola City Council that it was her decision to appeal the Local Option Gas Tax distribution to the Florida Cabinet.

In yet another bizarre twist, Bowling has argued that she is independent of Mayor Ashton Hayward and Pensacola City Council. Her client is “the City itself, not the Mayor alone, nor the City Council alone…”

She pointed out in a letter to Peter Penrod, who works in the Office of the General Counsel for the Office of Governor, that “the City Attorney is solely responsible for asserting and defending the City’s legal position in all legal matters involving the City.”

This may be the first time she has fully exercised that power. We know that Bowling was not involved in the decision to hire Beggs & Lane for the investigation of the fire chiefs, according to the final report, and we know that several other times outside attorneys have been hired without the City Attorney’s knowledge or approval.

At the council’s agenda review on Monday, Bowling said of the appeal,”…it is my duty as the independent legal advisor of the City to take action that I deemed is in the City’s best interest. Not based on direction of the Mayor. Not based on direction of City Council. And as you know my client is the City.”

In an email sent today, Council President Charles has objected to Bowling going rogue without direction from elected officials:

Ms. Bowling:

I have reviewed your letter and contacted Mr. Penrod directly to clarify the letter I submitted. The Council has never acted to endorse or approve your “independent” action. I did hear Mr. Barker tell the County Commission that filing an appeal was a possibility. This led to my assumption that the executive branch had directed the action. Your description is far more troubling.

As far as your interpretation of the charter goes, I do not agree that you are the independent legal adviser. It states very clearly who you advise. It does not list the citizens in the first line of your job description in the Charter. We serve in a representative democracy, and I don’t believe you have the luxury of operating independently without the direction of either the executive or the legislative branch. I found your comments during the agenda conference to be very disturbing and contrary to our Charter.

Charles Bare
Pensacola City Council

Until now, few have believed that the City Attorney, either Jim Messer or Bowling, has acted independently of the mayor. Several citizens, particularly those living near Long Hollow, would argue that she hasn’t rendered opinions on their behalf over the interests of the mayor.

This could be an interesting new development in how Pensacola City Hall operates. Her “clients” – the citizens of Pensacola – might have a few more cases for her to consider.

Read Letter to Peter Penrod.