Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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Outtakes—Big News Week

By Rick Outzen

Traditionally the week after Thanksgiving is a slow news week. Reporters usually have to dig for interesting stories but not last week.

On Wednesday, Nov. 29, a routine public record request revealed a letter from attorney Nix Daniel stating the federal grand jury investigation into Mayor Ashton Hayward had concluded and no wrongdoing was found. The records showed that the taxpayers had picked up the tab for Hayward’s legal counsel. In 2014, the mayor said he would pay at least some of the costs.

For two days, Inweekly and the News Journal tried to get a comment from the U.S. Attorney on the conclusion of the probe. The U.S. Attorney’s office refused, and Daniel told Inweekly his letter was based on a phone call conversation between an attorney with his firm and U.S. Attorney Christopher Canova.

Then Friday, Dec. 1, news came from all directions. The State Attorney’s office announced that Gulf Breeze Mayor Matt Dannheisser, former city manager Buzz Eddy and Bien May had not violated Sunshine Law because the board on which they serve, Fairpoint Regional Water System, is not subject to the statute.

State Attorney’s Office sent a letter to the Escambia Board of County Commissioners notifying it that Sheriff David Morgan had filed a complaint that the BCC improperly held a “shade meeting” to discuss his budget appeal.

The Opinions Division of the Florida Attorney General’s office rendered an opinion on whether the BCC should pay for the legal defense of Commissioner Doug Underhill in lawsuits filed by his predecessor. Senior Assistant AG Teresa Mussetto wrote that although the BCC ultimately must decide whether to use county funds, she believed that the facts and context of the complaint met none of the factors most agencies use to reimburse such expenses.

Gov. Rick Scott announced the appointment of Lee Hansen, a white Republican and founder of the Global Corner International Learning Center, to the Escambia County School Board. The District 3 seat was created over 30 years ago when black leaders sued to eliminate the area’s at-large voting system. An African-American had held the board seat since Dr. Elmer Jenkins was elected in 1986.

We also heard and later confirmed that President Donald Trump would hold a “Make America Great Again” rally on Friday, Dec. 8, in the Pensacola Bay Center. However, we could not confirm whether the decision to come to Pensacola instead of Mobile, Ala. was based on a 2008 Inweekly April Fool’s Day article that said Escambia County had been annexed into the state of Alabama.

Fortunately, the news rush slowed down over the weekend, but the lull won’t last with President Trump coming to Pensacola.