Mayor’s office exerts influence on CRA re:Fish Hatchery lawsuit

Earlier this month, the Community Redevelopment Agency hired attorney Doug Sale of the Panama City-based law firm Harrison, Sale & McCloy to defend and advise the CRA apart from the Hayward administration in a lawsuit concerning the location of the Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Hatchery and Enhancement Center at Bruce Beach.

Inweekly has learned that Sale has scheduled individual private meetings with each CRA member for Wednesday, Nov. 29.

Mayor Hayward has hired Tom Cloud of the GrayRobinson law firm to represent his administration, and apparently Cloud will also sit in on the meeting.

The “divide and conquer” has been a strategy the mayor’s office has often used with the Pensacola City Council, who also serves as the CRA. He and City Administrator Eric Olson rarely allow council members to ask questions of staff and department heads in public meetings. They prefer private meetings where council members can be given different information without any way of verifying that all members are being told the same story.

The meeting with Sale should be a “shade meeting” during which all CRA members hear the same information and each other’s questions. The meeting can be closed, but a court reporter is present to record the meeting. Those records become public after the lawsuit is settled.

The Escambia Board of County Commissioners has held several “shade meetings” this year to discuss litigation.

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2 thoughts on “Mayor’s office exerts influence on CRA re:Fish Hatchery lawsuit

  1. CJ,
    In the past, the outside attorneys hired by Mayor Hayward have taken the position that the mayor and his administration
    are “the city.”

    -R

  2. Does Tom Cloud represent the “Hayward Administration” or the City of Pensacola? According to City Attorney Lysia Bowling, she retained him in 2016 to be involved in the Local Option Gas Tax revenue SNAFU when she asserted that it was her decision to submit an appeal with no need for approval by the City Council or even the Mayor. Under both state law and the City Charter, the Pensacola City Council is the “governing body” or the city’s municipal corporation. In 2009, city voters were asked to remove the Mayor from the “governing body” starting in 2011 and did. In sum, an elected Mayor replaced an appointed City Manager. A new Council President assumed the powers of the old Mayor. Charter Review Commission Chairwoman Crystal Spencer wrote, ” Council’s role remains much the same as it does with the current charter.” That is what city voters were promised. As such, if this lawsuit had been filed in 2010, what would have been the role of the City Council? Would the City Council decide how to respond to include if there was a need for outside legal counsel or was that decision vested in the City Manager? Now, in 2017, keeping in mind Spencer’s words, what is the role of the City Council when the City of Pensacola is sued? As for the CRA, it is a separate legal entity. In fact, its interests here are openly at odds with those of the City of Pensacola. For its part, the CRA has retained legal counsel (Doug Sale). Is it ethical for Sale to allow Cloud to attend CRA meetings where CRA litigation strategy will be discussed? Further, exactly what type of meetings is the CRA holding? The CRA is subject to the same public meeting requirements as the City of Pensacola and Escambia County. The exemption for a “shade meeting” is very narrow with specific legal requirements as described above. Is Sale trying to circumvent the state law by holding a series of one-on-one shade meetings (with Hayward’s guy in the room) in order to ensure that there is no public record and the public never finds out what is discussed? Perhaps a brave CRA member needs to demand to be told who scheduled these meetings with Sale and why and why Cloud is being allowed to be present. Because Cloud has no role with respect to the CRA, the CRA board not having retained him as their legal counsel, is a CRA member free to bring someone to today’s meetings to include a member of the media? Will the CRA member be free to discuss with the public and media what Sale has to say anticipating that Cloud will likely inject himself into the meeting spinning things his way too?

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