As I reported, the federal grand jury process is done in secret. Mayor Ashton Hayward does not know what the jury is investigating, only the documents that the jury has subpoenaed from the city and which staff members have been summoned to testify on Sept. 3 in Tallahassee.
Interim City Administrator and CFO Dick Barker told the Pensacola City Council in a memo, dated August 26, that the investigation “seems to pertain to issues first raised by a former City official that were previously reviewed and found lacking by the City’s auditors and the State Attorney’s Office.”
The only former city official that we are aware raised issues concerning the mayor’s office with the State Attorney’s Office was former City Councilwoman Maren Deweese. The State Attorney’s Office did look into her issues in 2013 and found no cause for further investigation. In her list of concerns was a section on Jerry Pate Design.
I spent Friday afternoon reviewing the State Attorney’s files on the issues raised by Ms. Deweese to see how the city of Pensacola responded, particularly focusing on the evidence it provided to prove there was no wrongdoing.
She questioned the awarding of contracts to Jerry Pate Design for work at Admiral Mason Park and the Main Street Renovation projects and on the mayor’s travel expenses with Jerry Pate. She also presented to the State Attorney’s Office a timeline for the contracts awarded the contractor and supported it with documentation she had received from the city. See JDPquestions.
The city sent the SAO its purchasing ordinance which gives the mayor several options for the purchase of commodities or services:
“…the Mayor shall reserve the option to utilize the invitation to bid procedure, request for proposals, informal quotes or to negotiate, depending upon which alternative is deemed by the Mayor to be in the best interest of the City.”
The city also provided a financial report – “Vendor Fiscal YR Totals based on Check Date” – that listed the checks written by fiscal year to Jerry Pate’s two companies as of 1/8/13 (note: fiscal years run from Oct 1-Sept 30). The report showed an increase for Jerry Pate Design when the work was done for the two projects mentioned, but not necessarily out of line.
Jerry Pate Design
Jerry Pate Turf Supply, Inc.
* Ashton Hayward was mayor.
To verify the quality of Jerry Pate Design’s work on the Admiral Mason Stormwater Pond, the city provided a letter from the Florida Stormwater Association selecting the project for the FSA’s Excellence Award for 2012. See FSAletter.
Councilwoman Deweese questioned Jerry Pate paying for a March 2011 trip that the mayor and his wife took to Miami. City Attorney Jim Messer provided a copy of the cancelled check from the mayor’s personal checking, dated April 1, 2011, reimbursing Pate for the expenses. See AHcheck
Based on this evidence and its conversations with city staff, the State Attorney’s Office found no cause for further investigation of the Jerry Pate Design contracts.
That investigation was based on records that are now three or four years old. We don’t know if the federal grand jury is even looking at the same evidence or if something else has been brought forward to the U.S. Attorney.
Inweekly has a public request with the city of Pensacola for the information it has compiled to fulfill its subpoena ( MX-2300N_20140827_180518). We have been told that we will be allowed to review those public documents next week. Those files may tell us more about what this investigation may concern.