For 14 years, this paper has covered the City of Pensacola. For the first dozen or so years, we never doubted what city officials told us. Record requests were answered in a matter of days. No one at city hall lied to our reporters.
We might have disagreed with the decisions of city managers and mayors but we knew that they did what they believed was good for the city. Tom Bonfield and Al Coby never lied to us or hid public records. The same high standards applied to mayors John Fogg and Mike Wiggins.
We could agree to disagree, but the public was never fed false information. Yes, their take on a series of events could be very different from mine, but this paper was never punished or denied access to city staff because it questioned the status quo at city hall.
Mayor Ashton Hayward’s press secretary has thrown those principles out the window, and because this paper has caught him lying, we are denied access, our websites are blocked and our record requests are held up for weeks.
Derek Cosson lied to Diane Mack, Joe Vinson, Pensacola City Council and this paper last June when all of us requested information on The Zimmerman Agency. He told all of us that he didn’t have the new logo or any information regarding the mayor’s new brand. He had them. The city had already installed the new sign for the airport.
When we discovered that a person was posting anonymously from the same IP address as Cosson to my blog, he denied that it was him.
“Without exception, any time I have a comment about something on your blog it will be posted under my name or sent from this email address,” Cosson emailed me.
He lied. When he got caught by the city MIS department, he lied again, claiming that it was John Asmar who made him do it. He dug up an email from November 2011 where Asmar tells him and Travis Peterson to respond to false information on the blog—a far cry from what Cosson was doing.
When we posted that the mayor had requested CMPA chairman Collier Merrill to pull Randy Oliver’s report off the CMPA agenda, Cosson wrote us again, telling us that there was no truth to it.
He knew it was the truth because he was in the room when Tamara Fountain made the call to Merrill. He lied again to us.
Hayward has rewarded Cosson by promoting him from public information officer to his press secretary.
What does that tell us about Mayor Hayward?