Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward isn’t happy with how the public treated City Attorney Lysia Bowling at the Sept. 19 council meeting. He was so upset that he sent a letter to Council President Brian Spencer admonishing him for allowing the public to criticize Bowling. The mayor was displeased with the “tone of the discussion and the disparaging remarks” directed toward the city attorney.
“The days are long past where the governing body of a community can chain individuals to a post in the public square and invite anyone to throw stones at them,” wrote the mayor.
Mayor Hayward discontinued his town hall meetings in December 2013. At those meeting, citizens were able to meet with him and his department heads, ask questions, make comments, and get answers. For the past four years, he has stopped meeting face-to-face with voters in town hall settings. The openness and public dialogue that were promised in his first campaign and the hallmarks of the first three years in office have vanished.
The mayor’s last “Taking City Hall to the Citizens” town hall for District 6, which encompasses the North Hill area, was in October 2012. Since then, Mayor Hayward has repeatedly failed to listen to the concerns of District 6 and fought them on issues such as the relocation of the parole and probation center, the installation of a radio tower in the Long Hollow Conservation District, and the construction of the ECUA tanks.
With Hayward hiding from public debate and avoiding any meaningful Q&A sessions with voters, the public is going to become frustrated as they did on Sept. 19.
However, the mayor took no responsibility for the mounting frustration in the community. He placed the blame on Spencer and included with the letter a 20-page memorandum on meeting order and decorum prepared in 2014. He said, “In light of the improper decorum that was on display at Wednesday’s meeting, now is a good time to review procedural tools that you have as council president to conduct the meeting…”
The City Attorney works for both the mayor and city council. The mayor appoints the City Attorney, with the consent of the city council by an affirmative vote of a majority of City Council Members. She may be removed from office with the concurrence of the mayor and a majority of the city council. The city attorney is the highest paid employee of the city.
Mayor Hayward reaffirmed his support for Bowling.
“Lysia Bowling possesses in abundance all of the qualities that shape extraordinary municipal attorneys: discipline, intellect, wisdom, impeccable temperament, and, above all, fundamental decency and humanity,” wrote Hayward. “I know that she works tirelessly to represent, not my interests, and not the City Council’s interests, but the best interests of our City.”