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Friday October 31st 2014

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The Buzz 5/22/14

Reynolds Seeks Pay When he was interviewed by the Escambia Board of County Commissioners to become the county’s next administrator, former City Administrator Bill Reynolds told the board at a special meeting in March that he agreed with the city of Pensacola’s decision to terminate his employment in July 2013.

He said that he hoped to redeem himself with the new job. “I’m not extremely happy with my conduct in regards with my leaving the city of Pensacola.”

When Commissioner Grover Robinson asked about his relationship with city staff, he said, “I certainly don’t hold any animosity against the city of Pensacola. The city of Pensacola and the mayor did exactly what they should have done.”

The commissioners chose Jack Brown for the post, and apparently the city administrator no longer agrees with his statement.

On May 7, Reynolds filed a lawsuit in the Escambia County Circuit Court against the city of Pensacola over his firing. He has requested the court to award him his PTO (paid personal time off), severance pay and attorney’s fees in his defense last year against a charge of a public records violation.

In July 2013, the State Attorney’s Office charged the city administrator and the former city Public Information Officer Derek Cosson with non-criminal infractions of the Florida public records law for failing to fulfill a request for a copy of the city’s new logo a year earlier. Cosson pled no contest and paid a fine and the court costs. He also voluntarily resigned as the mayor’s press secretary and transferred to the city’s IT department. Reynolds fought the charge and won in court.

The State Attorney’s report also said that former Councilwoman Maren Deweese, who was running against Mayor Ashton Hayward at time, had told investigators that Reynolds had handed her, unsolicited, an employee complaint against the former Chief of Staff. That employee later withdrew the complaint after Deweese published it on her blog. The complaint was never investigated by the city because it was withdrawn.

“On March 5, 2013, Bill Reynolds gave a copy of this document together with a copy of his response to Maren DeWeese while at World of Beer,” state the State Attorney’s Office. “These documents were not provided pursuant to any public records request and were not solicited by Ms. DeWeese. The documents provided to Ms. DeWeese were in an envelope and unredacted in any way. Ms. DeWeese later published a redacted version of these documents on her blog.”

Because the complainant had not yet requested that the records remain confidential and except until two days later, the state attorney concluded that the release did not constitute a crime. The report did note that Reynolds’ actions were “inappropriate.”

A week after the State Attorney’s report was released, Mayor Ashton Hayward fired Reynolds, not for the public records infraction but for a “breach of trust.”

“Today, I made the decision to terminate Bill Reynolds from his position as City Administrator,” said the mayor. “Last week, I received the disappointing news from the State Attorney’s Office that Bill Reynolds chose to leak a confidential employee complaint. The wellbeing of the city’s hardworking employees is one of my top priorities. Mr. Reynolds’ actions violated this sacred responsibility. This is unacceptable to me.”

In his complaint against the city, Reynolds asserted that he was terminated without cause and that he was not fired for misconduct “as defined in either Section 443.036 (29) Florida Statutes or Section 6.D” of his employment agreement.

The Independent News emailed the city’s Communications Director Tamara Fountain for a comment on the lawsuit. The reply was not received prior to the paper’s publication deadline.