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Wednesday April 16th 2014

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Outtakes: Investigate


By Rick Outzen

Investigate

State Attorney Bill Eddins released on July 2 a report on how two of Mayor Ashton Hayward’s top staff members illegally hid the city’s new logo from a former council member and how his city administrator inappropriately released a confidential personnel document to the mayor’s political rival. Since then, we have had claims and counterclaims of other illegalities and operational anomalies surrounding the mayor’s office.

Our position is all those allegations should be examined by an outside, independent investigator. The state attorney’s office only examined two narrow issues—the refusal of the city to release copies of its logo and how a confidential personnel complaint got from the city administrator’s computer to a blog.

Former City Administrator Bill Reynolds and former Mayor’s Press Secretary Derek Cosson were charged with non-criminal infractions. Mayor Hayward fired Reynolds on July 8. Cosson voluntarily transferred to manage the city’s 311 citizen support service.

“The well-being of the city’s hardworking employees is one of my top priorities,” stated the mayor upon terminating the city administrator. “Mr. Reynolds’ actions violated this sacred responsibility. This is unacceptable to me.”

Since then, Reynolds and former Chief of Staff John Asmar have issued statements alleging unlawful behavior, misconduct and other irregularities in the mayor’s office that need to be fully investigated with no outside interference. The citizens have the right to know the truth, especially if more laws have been broken and employees threatened.

In his July 18 statement, Reynolds said, “The problems escalated to include serious misconduct and significant operational anomalies that I as city administrator was unable to address.”

He said that the several elected officials and city staff had been aware of the issues since April 2012.

Meanwhile, Asmar has said that he has “documents, emails, text messages and video tapes that document a pattern of unlawful behavior in the Office of the Mayor and show a total disregard for Florida law, the city charter and city policies.”

Both Reynolds and Asmar should present their evidence and have it investigated. According to the state attorney’s office, Reynolds refused to meet with their people during its investigation of the city. Asmar did meet with investigators but only provided testimony to the incidents that were under investigation.

The daily newspaper and the majority of the Pensacola City Council don’t want any further investigation. However, both these men and the public deserve to have their allegations examined—free from politics and bias.

To restore trust in city government, we must know the truth.