City Administrator Eric Olson and his special assistant, Rusty Wells, are the ones who insisted that Butch Hansen had to resign as the council’s budget analyst. And they intimated that CFO Dick Barker and his staff wouldn’t work with him.
Hansen stung the mayor’s office and Barker when he sent to the Pensacola City Council his analysis of the proposed $9.6-million Bayview Community Center. The council’s budget analyst believed Mayor Ashton Hayward never intended to build the center for the $6 million that the council had initially approved. He questioned how the city finance department handled the budget and design of the project. On June 14, the council voted, 7-1, for the mayor to keep the project within its budget.
On June 22, Hansen announced his resignation as budget analyst, citing pressure from the Hayward administration. The bone of contention was Hansen had filed to run for City Council District 6 seat. The mayor’s office alleged that it was an ethics violation for him to run for office and work for the city council.
A week later, the daily newspaper reported that the former Navy captain had withdrawn his resignation.
Inweekly caught up with Hansen last Friday. We asked him how his resignation came about. He said it was Wells who first approached Council Executive Don Kraher to discuss the situation.
“So there were discussions going on from when I initially filed to run for the District 6 seat,” said Hansen. “Some people–and nobody’s given me specific names, but it was intimated it may be from the finance department–were concerned about me working to support the council while I was a candidate. And I hadn’t heard anymore about that until about a week after the council meeting.”
City Administrator Olson approached Hansen. He was told the city policy was that he’d have to take a leave of absence.
“And that was interesting because I’d already looked up the city policies in their HR policy manual, which is the only place that addressed this situation specifically, said exactly the opposite, that if I wasn’t an officer of the city or a subordinate officer, then there was no reason to resign or take a leave of absence or anything else,” Hansen said.
“And I confirmed with the general council in Tallahassee for the elections commission that in fact, my role was a part-time advisor to the council on budget issues. I didn’t fall into that category at all.”
But the mayor’s office wouldn’t accept that opinion.
Hansen said, “Then they said, ‘Well, A, that policy’s been superseded. B, it doesn’t even apply to you.’ But I said, ‘Well, even if it’s been superseded, nobody’s run for office here in a couple years, and that was your policy. So I don’t understand why you’re telling me the people were required to take a leave of absence if even your now superseded policy, which of, by the way, is still on your website, was your policy.'”
He continued, “Then they cited the ethics code and they said, ‘But this is an ordinance and this does apply to you, and that people could construe that you would be getting a personal gain or a personal ….'”
Hansen asked that what personal gain would he receive. The mayor’s office replied “political gain.”
“The whole thing was silly to me, which led me to believe that they were digging deep to find a reason to convince me to leave,” he told Inweekly. “But the real thing was, it was intimated that, ‘Well, if city employees have a problem providing you information or talking to you, because they don’t know if they’re talking to candidate Hansen or employee Hansen, then they may just not talk to you.’ And so that would hurt my effectiveness in trying to help the council get through the budget workshops.”
He was told a decision had to be made by Friday, June 22, the qualifying deadline to run for council.
“I submitted my resignation on Friday and it just detailed exactly why, because to run a campaign and have anybody from the city intimate that I may be at all unethical, I wasn’t willing to start a campaign, and every question and answer session, the first question I’d have to answer is why I’m ethical. That’s a losing proposition,” explained Hansen.
What happened to get him to withdraw his resignation?
Hansen said, “Mr. Wingate (council president) got involved in talking with the administration and the attorney and then asked me to come down and sit down with them. And so I had a meeting with him and with Eric Olson. The tone was much different then, and I was gaining some assurances that there was nobody that thought I was unethical, and there was nobody that would not cooperate with me in helping the council. So I withdrew the resignation.”
Note: City of Grudges