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The Buzz 7/11/13

Terminations, Resignations And Problems With Timeline Mayor Ashton Hayward terminated on July 9 Bill Reynolds as his city administrator, days after State Attorney Bill Eddins released a report that Reynolds had leaked a confidential employee complaint (Independent News, “The Upside of Corruption,” July 4).

“The wellbeing of the City’s hardworking employees is one of my top priorities,” Mayor Hayward said in a statement released to the media. “Mr. Reynolds’s actions violated this sacred responsibility. This is unacceptable to me.”

Mayor Hayward then proceeded to write about the complaint alluding that it was against his former Chief of Staff, John Asmar, who was in the process of stepping down from his position.

“While Mr. Asmar was not asked to leave service over these allegations,” said the mayor, “my plans to end Mr. Asmar’s role with my administration were affirmed and accelerated.”

The problem with this scenario regarding Asmar’s resignation is the dates don’t quite work.  According to the state attorney’s office, the employee complaint was received late the night of Sunday, March 3. Reynolds handed it off to Maren Deweese, the mayor’s political rival, at World of Beer on March 5.

John Asmar stepped down as chief of staff on Friday, Feb. 22, nine days before the complaint was received. We asked Hayward’s communications director, Tamara Fountain, to explain the apparent discrepancy and how the March 3 complaint could have expedited Asmar’s resignation.

No reply was received before the paper’s publication deadline.

Giving Locals A Break At a special Committee of the Whole meeting on July 2, the Escambia County Commission discussed giving local contractors a preference in the bidding process.

Claudia Simmons, Escambia County purchasing manager, led a presentation about the purchasing procedures. She described the county’s solicitation methods and the process by which vendors can make formal bids for available jobs.

“Ordinance calls for the award of the bid to go to the lowest, most responsive and responsible bidder,” Simmons said.

Commissioner Steve Barry said he would favor giving local contractors the opportunity to match the price of a lower bid if that lower bid did not also come from a local contractor. Valentino said he strongly supports “a preference-ranking measurement that favors local contractors first.”

Simmons also talked about the practice of the county “piggybacking” off of statewide contracts.

Barry said he would like to see Escambia County give local vendors the opportunity to beat or match prices available by piggybacking state contracts.

“Sixty to 90 days prior to making the purchase of a piggyback, I would see those prices as the absolute worst-case scenario,” he said. “Piggyback prices are always there. Those contracts are in place. We could get those prices at any point in time.”

Barry said the county could post capital purchases it is planning on making in the next quarter online along with the “contract price that we could piggyback on and give the local firms an opportunity to fill that [order] potentially at that price.”

Path Clears For Matt Gaetz The state representative’s path to replace his dad, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, just got a little easier. Matt Gaetz’s chief rival for the Florida Senate seat was considered to be Jimmy Patronis from Panama City, whose term expires in 2014.

Patronis has dropped out of the race. In an email to area Republicans, he wrote that the timing wasn’t right.

“I have a strong desire to continue to serve the people of Northwest Florida another eight years in the State Senate,” Patronis said. “However, an overwhelming part of me has come to realize it is not what’s best for me and my family at this time in our lives. So I have decided I will no longer be a candidate for State Senate.”

He didn’t rule out a future run for public office.

“I am not stepping away from community service, and I have not ruled out a future run for public office,” he said. “For now I have decided this is not the right time to run, and I’m looking forward to finishing strong during my last year in the Florida House of Representatives.”

UWF Raises University of West Florida President Dr. Judy Bense informed her faculty recently that the Florida Legislature funded pay raises.

The increases are for full time university workforce and faculty, with part time university workforce employees receiving a prorated share based on hours worked. Those employees making less than $40,000 will see an increase of $1,400, an increase of 3.5-7 percent dependent on base salary. Those making more than $40,000 will receive an increase of $1,000; both are effective October 1, 2013.

Additionally, the legislature made available a pool of funds to provide $600 performance based bonuses to 35 percent of UWF employees. These bonus funds will be available in June 2014.