City Hall survivors thrive

When Ashton Hayward campaigned for Pensacola mayor in 2010, he talked a great deal about taking on the establishment and the “good old boys.” One of his campaign slogans was: “It’s our city. Let’s take it back.”

From “Day One,” he committed to hiring the best and brightest to run the city. He promised to Inweekly and others that he would replace Rusty Wells as city attorney and would find a replacement for City Finance Director Dick Barker, who was in the DROP and scheduled to retire in about 18 months.

“We can’t afford four more years of the status quo.”

Ashton Hayward’s closing campaign pitch, October 2010

By April 2011, Wells was gone and replaced by a former assistant county attorney, Jim Messer. He was paid $67,428 – 90-days severance: $38,786.80; 368 days PTO: $28,642.56. The severance agreement stated, “EMPLOYEE waives any right or claim to reinstatement as an employee of EMPLOYER.”

Wells completed the city’s DROP program in 2009 and had been allowed to stay as city attorney. He began collecting his city pension.

Barker fared better. Despite reports of newly-elected Mayor Hayward showing up at Fire Union function shouting that Barker was “gone,” finance director was made chief finance officer effective 10/1/11.  He also stayed on the job after he completed DROP in 2012. Barker converted his lump-sum DROP distribution to an “inservice distribution, three months after his promotion. In June 2016, he was paid for 500 PTO hours – $29,620.

During Hayward’s second term, Barker was given several pay raises and stipends for serving as interim city administrator and managing the city’s enterprise funds. His current salary is $139,588.80.

Wells did some consulting work for the city for a few years. When Hayward fired the Council Executive Lila Cox in June 2014, the mayor tried to hire Wells to replace her, but the city council rejected him.

By 2015, Wells was the special assistant to the city administrator. He later handled contracts and leases for Barker.  Robinson appointed him acting city attorney for January, and I think he currently is an assistant city attorney.  His salary is $102,460.80, according to public records released last December.