Pensacola, Florida
Friday December 15th 2017

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Outtakes—Ask The Staff

By Rick Outzen

The City Charter gives the Pensacola City Council little say in how Mayor Ashton Hayward treats city employees. He has the sole power to hire, discipline or fire all employees not protected by collective bargaining agreements.

Mayor Hayward can create positions, set salaries, modify job descriptions and restructure the city’s organization chart without anyone’s permission or approval. He can ignore entire sections of the Human Resource Manual. Pay raises can be doled out however he wishes and to whomever he wants.

Chief Human Resources Officer Ed Sisson was hired as HR administrator without completing a job application or having a resume in a personnel file. Last summer, the media discovered that Tamara Fountain had progressed from Communications Consultant to Chief Operations Officer without such documentation in her file.

Other key members of Hayward’s leadership team were hired without posting the job openings or conducting searches for the positions: City Administrator Eric Olson, Police Chief David Alexander, Port Director Amy Miller, and his nominee for fire chief, David Allen.

If city employees don’t like it, they can find work elsewhere and many have. Mayor Hayward has had three different city administrators and one interim in less than six years. He is on his third airport director, and Dan Flynn is only an interim.

The mayor’s personal office staff is a perpetual revolving door. His new team consists of office manager Judith Colburn and executive aide to the Mayor Ben Ouellette. Gone are Zach Michael, Lauren Williams, Nicole Lowery, Elizabeth Buswell, Rita Lee, Allee Blay and others.

How has the turnover impacted the city operations? What is the morale of the employees?

The only way to find out is to conduct an independent employee survey. The Hayward Administration has conducted two annual surveys of its citizens but has not asked its employees what are their thoughts on city services.

The business leaders that Duwayne Escobedo interviewed for his story, “Top Employers Engage Employees,” talked about the value of conducting annual employee surveys. The surveys led to more productive employees and improved operations.

The City Charter gives the City Council the power “to inquire into the conduct of any municipal office, department, agency or officer and to investigate municipal affairs.”  The Council should consider hiring a national firm to survey all the city employees.

Such a survey would give the citizens an objective measurement of the employees’ view of city operations and can open a dialogue of how to improve city government. If it works for Navy Federal, Baptist Hospital, AppRiver and others, it should work for City Hall.