Pensacola, Florida
Monday October 15th 2018


Outtakes—Fake Facts

By Rick Outzen

While the nation’s capital is sparring over fake news, we in Pensacola have had to deal with the fake facts coming out of Pensacola City Hall.

In December, Inweekly reported Gloria Horning had made two calls regarding the number of dump trucks in her Tanyard neighborhood on a Sunday morning. Horning said she had registered her complaints with the city’s 311 operator and had not heard back from city officials.

City Public Information Officer Vernon Stewart disputed Horning’s claim that she had heard nothing back from city officials was incorrect. He wrote, “Her call was handled accordingly by and through 311.”

Through public record requests, Inweekly found the 311 service logged the first call, and Laurie Byrne of the Constituent Services received an email about it within minutes. The next morning, Byrne updated the status to “complete” without contacting Horning.

For a month, Inweekly fought with the City’s Sunshine Center to get the log for the second call. City officials insisted they had responded to that one. Finally, Inweekly was told the answering service had a new operator who failed to report the call properly. Horning’s call was received, but not logged. Constituent Services could not have possibly called Horning back.

Last week, City Administrator Eric Olson told the Pensacola City Council that Escambia County had verbally requested the city hand over its portion of the Escambia Wood Treating Company Superfund site. He said he had sent a letter to County Administrator Jack Brown confirming the request.

Both Brown and Commissioner Grover Robinson told Inweekly that the county made no such request verbally or otherwise since the January joint meeting.

Then we have the City of Pensacola Sanitation Director Jerry Moore’s report to the council. Moore said ECUA had treated the city unfairly during the negotiations of a recycling agreement. He complained that the city had to pay $28,000 for a material composition study, while Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties didn’t have to do a study.

“We were treated differently,” said Moore. “We were told that we would have to pay $5 more per ton to have our recyclables processed.”

ECUA official told Inweekly Moore had misstated several facts. The two neighboring counties did studies. Also, ECUA offered to charge the extra $5 or pay a rebate to the city on a sliding scale tied to the average market value (AMV) of the recyclables. Based on the February 2017 AMV, ECUA would have paid the city a rebate of $5 per ton for its recyclables.

Transparency depends on truth, and good decisions can be made only when the information given is correct. There is no room for fake facts.