Pensacola mayor pays out $28K for gas tax appeal, settles for lower share

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward paid the Orlando-based law firm GrayRobinson $28,409.55 to handle his appeal regarding the local gas tax and eventually settled for a lower percentage than he originally sought from the Escambia Board of County Commissioners and what the BCC offered the City of Pensacola.

On July 14, 2016, the Board of County Commissioners passed two interlocal agreements regarding the gas tax. The first agreement agreed to allocate to the City of Pensacola nearly seven percent, $590,000 per year, according to a state formula based on the transportation expenditures in city’s audited financial reports.

Under the old agreement, the City of Pensacola was allocated 18.2 percent, and Mayor Hayward had asked the county to use an allocation formula based on population –which would have been about 15.62 percent. The county agreed to allocate an additional 8.6 percent out of its share if the city agreed to pave the streets on the west side of the city as listed in an attachment given to the BCC. If the city failed to pave the streets, the county could terminate the agreement. The combined allocation to the City would have been slightly more than what the mayor requested.

Unfortunately, the BCC proposal was never delivered to the Pensacola City Council. In early August, Mayor Ashton Hayward notified the Board of County Commissioners that he was appealing the Local Option Gas Tax issue to Gov. Rick Scott. Read Appeal. City Attorney Lysia Bowling later told the Pensacola City Council in a memo that it was her decision to make the appeal.

However, Bowling, who is paid $154,000 a year, plus benefits, did not handle the appeal. The City hired GrayRobinson to handle it.

The appeal was passed on to an administrative law judge. The city and county reached an agreement that was executed by both parties in April. The City of Pensacola’s percentage of the local option gas tax is 15.15 percent through Dec. 31, 2026.


Legal Costs – Gas Tax Appeal
9/8/16  $7,185.84
10/10/16  $375.00
11/7/16  $452.04
12/7/16  $4,222.00
2/7/17  $1,825.62
3/7/17  $5,144.24
4/7/17  $7,028.48
5/5/17  $2,176.13
Total  $28,409.35


The GrayRobinson’s invoices:MX-2615N_20170516_151957


2 thoughts on “Pensacola mayor pays out $28K for gas tax appeal, settles for lower share

  1. The Mayor should be tired of getting beat in court! Not only did he pay the $28K for a “losing effort'” He also lost .43% in the settlement amount that was LESS that the County offered before the foolishness of the mayors litigation. Can the taxpayers get a break from an ill-informed and litigation-driven Mayor? Millions of dollars have been lost by taxpayer by the Mayor’s governance and losing litigation.

  2. The big issue the City Council refused to address was which branch of government has the authority to make the appeal to the Administration Commission. I was present at the meeting when City Attorney Bowling said that “she” took unilateral action taking the appeal. The City Council was told after the fact. Bowling said that it was her decision alone not that of Mayor Hayward, another twist because it seems even less likely that the power to make the appeal is vested in the City Attorney. I studied the specific state law in question and the entire chapter in which that statute is contained. It seems pretty clear that the power to make the appeal is vested in the “governing body” alone to include that the “governing body” is mentioned but not the Mayor, City Manager, City Clerk, City Attorney or a department head. As now has happened over and over since January 2011, the City Council was flustered into a state of frenzied inaction and did nothing. Council President Bare sent a complaining letter to Tallahassee but took no legislative action. In fact, the smart move in August would have been to formally direct the City Attorney to request an Advisory Legal Opinion from the Florida Attorney General to clarify if a Mayor or City Manager exercises the legislative power to unilaterally make such an appeal without even telling the governing body. As a secondary issue, the question of which formula is correct when dividing up local option gas tax revenues – the one used by Escambia County or the City of Pensacola – was never resolved. The next time this issue comes up, the elected officials then in office will have to start from scratch again. One option the City Council could have taken but did not was to request the local state legislative delegation amend the law to bluntly specify that the right to appeal a decision of the Board of County Commissioners is vested solely and exclusively in the City Council. Also, the City Council could have asked the Florida Legislature to better clarify the formula for diving up local option gas tax revenues. From the city’s percentage, the percentage of population is a losing proposition because each year the city’s percentage of population declines as it has for decades. I can think of several ways to divide up the money without reference to population. Lastly, and something no one took the time to vet, Commissioner Lumon May’s assertion during a board meeting that the city’s street repaving program is racist remains unproven. Few members of the public seem to know that because the City Council was unwilling to challenge May’s claims, Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4 all will see fewer streets repaved than Districts 5, 6 and 7.

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