City Council fails to open hire, for 39 years

The current council-manager system isn’t working. It has become a weak mayor-weak council system.

The Pensacola City Council, under the current charter, has two hires, city manager and city administrator. The Council has failed to open the city attorney position to interviews outside the city’s legal department for nearly 40 years.

Don Caton was an assistant city attorney before he was made city attorney in 1971. His successor was John Fleming, asst. city attorney. Fleming’s successor is Rusty Wells, asst. city attorney. For all I know, Caton’s predecessor may have been an internal hire, too.

When Fleming retired, there were other applicants, but Mayor John Fogg cut the open process off by surprisingly nominating Wells at May 2008 meeting. Wells was made city attorney by 6-3 vote.

The other position that the city council hires-city manager- was also done without the council opening the position to outsiders. Al Coby, a former asst. city manager, was originally considered an interim, but was later made the full city manager. No other applications were accepted for the position.

Furthermore, Coby and Well were in DROP- Deferred Retirement Option Program. Coby was supposed to retire Jan. 5, 2009. Wells was to retire Aug. 30, 2009.

So we have a city council system that refuses to open up the two positions that it controls to be the best applicants. In the end, the council may have hired Coby and Wells, but at least they should allow others to apply to ensure the best persons are hired.

On top of that, the council allows them to entire DROP and then continues to employ them past their retirement dates.

Who really controls Pensacola city government? The people elected by the voters or the staff that pushes its own fellow members for the top positions?