Robinson: No coordination, collaboration or consistency out of Gilley

Last week, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson went before the Board of County Commissioners and asked for $4.915 million of the county’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds. The board only approved $2.6 million.

Robinson has become increasingly frustrated with the county’s fickleness and the lack of clear direction from County Administrator Janice Gilley on the CARES Act.

“Every time we go to the county, the rules change,” the mayor told me days after the dust had settled from the meeting. He joked that he almost needs a Quija board to figure out what the county wants any given day.

Kidding aside, he has been disappointed with how little coordination has come out of the administrator’s office. Robinson said, “We all should have been looking at the same ideas, comparing what each is doing and figuring out how to make this work. That’s the smart way to handle it.”

Collaboration and coordination didn’t happen.

The city initially tried to get the county to allocate CARES dollars for the municipality based on its Local Option Sales Tax percentage. The city then would have budgeted the funds as it saw best for its CARES needs.

“Well, that wasn’t what they wanted to do,” Robinson told Inweekly. “They wanted us to have to come through them, so we went back, and then we came up with ideas.”

He continued, “We should have been able to share those good ideas and figure out what we could do together, but it hasn’t been that way. I mean, it’s been a kind of you do your thing and then come back to us and let us know. We may approve it. We may not.”

Adding to the frustration was Gilley’s instruction for the city to submit its CARES requests to FEMA before coming to the county for funds, even though all the expenditures were CARES Act eligible, according to the mayor.

“I asked at a League of Cities meeting if anyone else was having to do this,” said Robinson. “Not a single person said that they had to submit to FEMA. Instead, people came up to me after the meeting and said that wasn’t a CARES Act requirement.”

He didn’t know where Gilley came up with that requirement that City Finance Director Amy Lovoy and her staff spent hours trying to meet.

“From our standpoint, no one’s ever explained it,” said the mayor. “We’ve been submitting eligible expenses, and we got to do what the county says. Part of this is the state didn’t make it real clear, but it would’ve been easier if we had a more willing partner to work with us—one we can learn to work and collaborate with.”

As a county commissioner, Robinson worked with five different county administrators over 12 years. How does Gilley compare to her predecessors?

The mayor said, “All I’m going to say is I’ve been there before and I’m not there now, so I don’t know what it’s like there, but it does seem challenging that we cannot seem to get consistency.”

Note: We have more on the Nov. 11 special meeting in this week’s issue.


4 thoughts on “Robinson: No coordination, collaboration or consistency out of Gilley

  1. Mr. Lewis, I’m wondering if you have actually watched any of the County meetings on the CARES Act in general, or the ones where Mayor Robinson, Keith Wilkins, and Amy Lavoy came to the meetings to try to have some sort of reasonable discussion about the County meeting its statutory obligation to partner with its subordinate governments in emergency situations? That’s an honest question as I of course couldn’t know.

    There really aren’t words to illustrate what a three ring circus this has all been under Gilley’s “leadership,” just an absolute fiasco from start to finish. There were so many bottom of the barrel moments it is hard to hone in on, say, the top 3 organizational lunacies.

    But if I had to pick, it would be (1) the refusal to offer any budgetary back-up whatsoever to the public over 9 consecutive meetings, even though she was getting hammered in the press and at the podium on it (she doesn’t care; she seems to consider her lack of transparency a point of pride); (2) her brazen attempt to gift a vendor with previous ties to the County with a sole source contract to sit on top of the money for the CARES grants while enjoying a healthy percentage on it; or (3) the blatant dishonesty and negligence with which she “pursued” her partnership with the City on CARES funding.

    I mean, it’s right there for anybody watching the meeting. Including outright lies conveyed to the City on FEMA’s place in all of it, which is one of her break-glass managerial tactics when she’s trying to maintain authoritarian control of funds.

    This isn’t a question of the County driving a hard bargain in something that should have, in a time of terrific need for it, been embraced as a partnership rather than a negotiation. It’s a matter of a flailing administration that is completely in over its head, the County in chaos because of it, and the City and other bodies and agencies having little to no statutory ability to effect the process all that much (as she is well aware).

    Janice wanted all this power during an emergency order–she got it. Look around the County and ask yourself how it’s going these days. Know any County staff you trust? Ask them what their days are like under her–the harassment and intimidation tactics, Fire Me Friday, the “gulag” Ethics Department, people working in constant fear of their jobs and being forced to work in unsafe conditions during a pandemic because they have an alt-right covid denier running the County.

    That, sadly, is the big picture. Mayor Robinson is just the first local leader to come out and say what everyone else says behind the scenes: her tenure is a disaster, and the longer she stays the worse it will get. Lots of people are grateful to Grover for voicing it publicly. It’s nothing more than the collective opinion of most everyone I know behind the scenes, with the guts to speak out on it applied.

  2. I would like someone to report the county side of this story. I would also like to know how often Mayor Robinson (Pensacola) and Mayor Hawkins (Century) “meet” with County Administrator Gilley in person or by video or talk on the phone. They are all direct counterparts, each the chief administrative officer of their separate political subdivisions, the county in charge during a statewide emergency, state law placing municipalities like Pensacola and Century in a subordinate position during an emergency, and with its efforts guided at least in large part by the state law requirements described in Chapter 252 Emergency Management, Florida Statutes. The city has no emergency management program, plan, agency or director in compliance with state law. The county is playing the tune and city needs to get engaged or be marginalized. This story and other reporting suggests that Robinson is out of the decision-making loop. If so, he needs to walk over to the county to “check in,” get up to speed and get with the program.

  3. Janice Gilley is the epitome of incompetence. I’m baffled by the fact that she hasn’t already been fired, but it needs to happen immediately!

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