Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday August 14th 2018

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Mayor Cleared, Attorneys Paid

By Rick Outzen

Through a public request of Beggs & Lane law firm’s billings to the City of Pensacola, Inweekly learned that the three-year federal bribery investigation of Mayor Ashton Hayward has concluded and no criminal charges would be filed.

The invoices showed that while he had been notified by Beggs & Lane attorney Greg Miller in late June on the conclusion of the federal probe, the mayor made no mention of it to the Pensacola City Council or the public.

On Sept. 21, Nix Daniel, the managing partner of Beggs & Lane, wrote City Attorney Lysia Bowling to inform her of a conversation his partner, Greg Miller, had with U.S. District Attorney Christopher Canova.

“That investigation proved to be without merit,” wrote Daniel. “All of the matters which were the subject of the investigation were within the scope of Mr. Hayward’s responsibilities as mayor. There was no finding of any wrongdoing on his part.”

The Beggs & Lane’s billings for the representing the mayor totaled $43,684.23. Daniel asked that the mayor be reimbursed $13,500 for the installments he had paid from Dec. 31, 2014 to Oct. 6, 2016. He requested the city pay the balance due, $30,184.23.

On Sept. 28, Bowling sent City CFO Dick Barker a memo:

“The Florida Supreme Court and the state courts of appeal have long established a common law right of public officials to receive legal representation at public expense to defend themselves against charges arising from the performance of their official duties while serving a public purpose.”

She told Barker that the city was legally obligated to pay the fees. The Pensacola City Council and citizens were not notified that the taxpayers paid the mayor’s legal fees.

Inweekly emailed the public information officer for United States Attorney’s Office for Northern District of Florida, Amy Alexander, and asked for confirmation of Daniel’s statements.

Alexander replied, “We have no public information to provide regarding this inquiry.”

The newspaper asked Daniel for the documentation that supported his letter. He said the Sept. 21 letter was based on a conversation between Miller, a former U.S. Attorney, and current U.S. Attorney Canova.

Daniel said, “Mr. Canova advised Mr. Miller that the investigation was concluded with no finding of wrongdoing and that no criminal charges would be filed.”

Probe Launched
On Aug. 26, 2014, Interim City Administrator Dick Barker notified the City Council that the U.S. District Attorney was investigating the city and staff members were being questioned.

Inweekly obtained the subpoena, which requested city documents be presented to a federal grand jury scheduled to convene on Sept. 3, 2014, in Tallahassee. The subpoenaed records concerned the Main Street Rehabilitation Project, the city’s investments, agreements with Jerry Pate Design, city’s insurance broker and the expenses of former Chief of Staff John Asmar and Hayward.

In a written statement issued when the subpoena surfaced publicly, Mayor Hayward said, “I am aware of the subpoenas which have been issued this week to several City employees, and I have instructed staff to immediately make available to the City Council and public any and all documents which we can legally release.”

He added, “Furthermore, I have asked employees to fully comply with this process as it moves forward, and my administration will make any new information available to the public as quickly as possible. Everything we do on behalf of citizens is rightfully open to review and scrutiny, and I look forward to a swift and satisfactory resolution to this inquiry.”

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