City Clerk disputes staffing cut

In March, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward hired retained Evergreen Solutions LLC of Tallahassee to conduct an operational study of the City Clerk’s office. The report was completed on June 26 but not given to the Pensacola City Council on August 2.

City Clerk Ericka Burnett didn’t receive a copy until the following day after he already discussed the report in a budget workshop, according to an email she sent Mayor Hayward and the council.

According to report, the study was to address: What tasks should the City Clerk perform? How should Council meetings be managed by the City Clerk? How can the current operation be improved?

The report is being used by City Administrator Eric Olson to justify the transfer one employee from the City Clerk to the City Attorney.

Why spend tax dollars on a study? The mayor can reorganize departments without council approval.

Burnett has disputed the findings of the report – which covered such items as whether consent agenda items should be read in a council meeting. (Really)

From the City Clerk:

Mayor Hayward, Council President Spencer, and Members of City Council:

Today, I received and have read the Operational Study dated June 26, 2017 conducted by Queenell Fox of Evergreen Solutions, LLC.  The statements/observations are out of context and redundant throughout.  Ms. Fox clearly has no understanding of municipal functions, much less the knowledge of City Clerk functions related to Florida law.  All City Clerk’s Offices function differently with various assignments of tasks and responsibilities which affect the number of personnel.

This study is a result of City Administrator Eric Olson taking the Clerk Administrative Assistant position from the Clerk’s Office and reassigning to the Legal Department.  Mr. Olson’s reasoning for the change was that the position was needed for the Public Records Coordinator position.  Please be reminded that the Public Records Coordinator was terminated in 2015 by the Administration and that position was reassigned to the Legal Department.  The Clerk’s Office has always been staffed at 3 full time employees (FTE’s), so this was not a problem.

Mr. Olson also stated that implementation of the Granicus system alleviated some of the work load of the position.  While the Granicus program has allowed for a more streamlined agenda preparation process, it still requires human interaction to function.  Without the Clerk Administrative Assistant position, we are unable to provide back up, cross-train, or have full office coverage to operate efficiently and maintain the standard that has been long established by this office.  This will most certainly impact City Council meetings.  I have not requested additional staff.  I want to maintain a staff of 3  FTE’s.

The overall lack of understanding the Clerk’s role in municipal government is the underlying issue.  For more than three years I have provided revised job descriptions to Human Resources and the City Administrator that accurately reflect the duties of the employees of the Clerk’s Office.  The current job descriptions are inaccurate and poorly written. 

I also provided Ms. Fox with copies of the revised job descriptions as a guideline of our actual duties, functions, and responsibilities which align with the City Charter, state laws, and Council’s processes.  The current job descriptions are not an accurate depiction of our duties, functions, and responsibilities.  

To further illustrate the lack of understanding of the Clerk’s role, in my meeting with Mr. Olson wherein he informed me that the Clerk Administrative Assistant position was being transferred to the Legal Department, he stated that he does not know what we do.

I am able to provide documentation to refute the many discrepancies, not to mention errors and omissions, throughout the study.   A few examples such as, 1) quoting the statute dictating proper adoption of ordinances and resolution and incorrectly relating it to the reading of the consent items; 2) inaccurate citing of peer cities’ population and number of staff in Clerks’ offices; and 3) inaccurately quoting Assistant City Clerk Robyn Tice’s salary as $7,000 more than it actually is.  There are many, many more.

Further, I was not aware that Council meeting efficiency was a part of the scope of Ms. Fox’s study.  We do not manage Council meetings as reflected in the report.   The Council President and Council staff should have been informed by the Administration and made a part of the interview process.  Administration never made me aware of the complete focus of the assessment being conducted.

In my direct involvement with this study, I observed that Ms. Fox spent more time interviewing other city staff than she did me or the Assistant City Clerk.  My interview with Ms. Fox was completed in person in less than an hour as she was scheduled to go upstairs to interview Assistant City Administrator Keith Wilkins and Ms. Tice’s interview was rescheduled and conducted by phone, which lasted less than an hour.  I am also aware that she met for hours with other staff prior to our scheduled interview.

Finally, I would like to make known my concerns regarding Ms. Fox’s qualifications and ethics.  A simple “Google” search provided concerning articles related to her prior municipal employment and resignation in 2016, in Texas.

I welcome the opportunity to speak with each of you regarding the gross inaccuracies that make up her entire report.

Respectfully submitted,


 170626 City Clerk’s Office Operational Study_Final Report

League City Texas Press Release – Termination of Queenell Fox


2 thoughts on “City Clerk disputes staffing cut

  1. Poorly written, but Ericka is right. Unfortunately, it will not matter. Hayward does what he wants to do & no one speaks up. Too bad Ericka didn’t take a stand against all of the unjust terminations during Hayward’s tenure. Much like other city employees, Ericka watched from the sidelines & tolerated the injustices that have been done to her co-workers since 2011.

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    Ericka — Count yourself lucky. At least you’re only losing an employee from your office & not your job.

  2. The more important issue than staffing levels in the Office of the City Clerk is the constitutional role of the City Clerk in support of the entire City government, in addition to the process for the appointment of a City Clerk. The voter-approved City Charter gives both the City Attorney and the City Clerk great independence to include the Charter directing that the City Clerk “shall serve the entire City government.” At present, the City Clerk now appears to be a direct report to the City Administrator. As such, if true, the Charter expressly prohibits the City Council and its members from giving guidance and direction to the City Clerk, in addition to the City Administrator, etc. The way in which a City Clerk gets the job is independent of a municipality’s form of government. A City Clerk may be an elected official as is the case in the Town of Jay and the City of Crestview, both having Mayor-Council forms of government like Pensacola. A City Clerk can also be appointed and dismissed by the governing body of a municipality, e.g. the Pensacola City Council, and that is how it was done under the prior Charter before the Mayor assumed the duties of the City Manager. Pensacola’s Charter Review Commission initially proposed that the City Clerk be appointed and dismissed by the Mayor but only with the approval of the City Council. The CRC also proposed that the City Attorney be appointed in the same manner but serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. Citizens objected and the draft Charter was amended to provide that the Mayor could only dismiss the City Attorney with the approval of the City Council, approval twice given eager when Mayor Hayward fired City Attorney Rusty Wells (2011) and City Attorney Jim Messer (2015). In 2009, I provided the City Council with a copy of a draft Charter proposal from my hometown of Sacramento that was then considering a change from a Council-Manager to Mayor-Council form of government. Under that proposal, the Sacramento City Council would continue to appoint and dismiss the City Clerk, City Attorney and City Treasurer.

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