Pensacola mayor chastises council president and public

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.”

Read 170922 LTR_City Council Rules of Decorum .



4 thoughts on “Pensacola mayor chastises council president and public

  1. The mayor would not have to review “the” tape if he would attendthe city council meetings as required by the charter

  2. I truly believe the City of Pensacola voters made two mistakes…
    1. Voting for a Strong Mayor
    2. Electing King Hayward
    He seems to believe he is above the law and City Council. Just the fact that he hired outsode attorneys to sue the Fish House without speaking with the City Council. I still believe the lawsuit was filed at a time to try and damage Collier’s Airport Concessions Bid.

  3. Well Mr. Mayor,

    How do you explain her history of bad legal opinions and litigation oversight in so many “losing” cases and policies? Not to mention that YOUR outside legal expenses has exponentially increased since you took office?

  4. If you look back as far as November 2010 even before Hayward took office you can see that all three City Attorneys to date have been his political lackeys. In November 2010, only days after voters approved a new city constitution that required the Mayor to “attend all meetings of the City Council,” City Attorney Rusty Wells advised Mayor-elect Hayward (and instructed PNJ reporter Jaime Page) that the Mayor could not be made to attend City Council meetings and for the most part he has not. (Wells never shared his legal opinion with the City Council.) Wells was fired in early 2011. His replacement City Attorney Jim Messer dreamed all sorts of nutty legal interpretations to include that the Fish House owed the city millions of dollars. Among his more inflammatory opinions, in mid-2011, Messer sent the City Council a legal opinion that selectively quoted the City Charter and out of context in which he argued that the Mayor exercised the power to hire and fire the City Council’s legislative staff. The Charter gives the Mayor no such power. Messer lied to the City Council claiming that a legal case in Tampa proved that Pensacola’s M:ayor had the power. It did not and Messer was even wrong claiming that the city had won the lawsuit when it did not. In response to Councilwoman Myers’ public records request Messer claimed that unnamed members of the Charter Review Commission (CRC) had told him the Mayor had the power though nothing in Messer’s opinion explained why nothing in writing gives the Mayor the power. In response to Councilwoman Myers’ public records request, Messer suffered legal amnesia claiming he could not remember with which CRC members he spoke or what they had told him. Messer also said that the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency on which the Mayor does not serve could not hire its own staff even though a state law expressly authorizes it. Messer was fired in 2015. City Attorney Lysia Bowling has taken the office of City Attorney to new lows to include claiming that the Mayor is above the law not required to enforce or comply with “resolutions” adopted by the Ci8y Council using the state law method described in Section 166.041 Procedures for Adoption of Ordinances and Resolutions, Florida Statutes, a key part of the state’s Municipal Home Rule Powers Act that none of the City Council members have ever read. Someone could probably write a small book about Hayward’s abuse of power aided and abetted by his three City Attorneys to date.

    The only thing certain in a Mayor-Council form of government is that an elected Mayor replaces and appointed City Manager. Other than that, anything goes to include the Mayor serving as a voting member of the City Council as in Orlando, Charleston, etc. With respect to the mess with the City Attorney, the quickest solution would be for a majority of the City Council (4 of 7) to propose a Charter Amendment that grants the City Council the power to hire and fire the City Attorney. The same should probably be done with the City Clerk who no longer works for the City Council but has been placed under the direct supervision of the City Administrator a rather obvious violation of the City Charter.

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