Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday March 20th 2019

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Outtakes—Let ‘em Go

By Rick Outzen

Grover Robinson has been mayor for nearly three months. He has hired a city administrator, Chris Holley from Okaloosa County, and a city attorney, Susan Woolf, who worked as assistant city attorney from 2008-2011.

However, the new mayor has been slow to fill out the rest of his team, and I’m afraid he will regret depending on the holdovers from the Hayward administration to deliver his campaign promises.

It’s disappointing to see four of the men behind the complicated plot to get rid of Fire Chief Matt Schmitt and Deputy Fire Chief Joe Glover—a scheme that eventually cost the city and its insurer over half a million dollars—still enjoying six-figure salaries in Robinson’s administration.

On Jan. 4, Rusty Wells was named deputy city attorney by Robinson. He worked with Allan, Norton & Blue attorney Rob Larkin to sell Mayor Hayward on the plan that placed the chiefs on administrative leave and hired an outside investigator, according to his affidavit filed in federal court. His version of the facts differed from sworn statements by Hayward and other city officials. Was he or the city officials telling the truth?

Chief Financial Officer Dick Barker sat in on the discussions about the chiefs. He signed the settlement agreement on the behalf of the city. The agreement had an addendum that made the chiefs agree to never apply for a city job, and if they did apply, they wouldn’t be considered. When I pointed out the clause to Robinson, he called it very vindictive.

Both Wells and Barker have completed the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan)—Wells in 2008, Barker in 2012. They worked for the city when the black firefighters filed their civil rights lawsuit in 2005. When he ran in 2010, Hayward promised law enforcement and firefighters that he would get rid of both them.  Nine years later, they’re still hanging around.

Assistant City Administrator Keith Wilkins placed the chiefs on administrative leave and oversaw the investigation. He might claim that he was only following orders, but that defense doesn’t sit well with most people. Wilkins had one opportunity to derail the effort to oust the chiefs. Because his boss, Olson, was named in the EEOC complaints, Wilkins was the final person to hear the chiefs’ appeals. He denied them.

Chief Human Resources Officer Edward Sisson piled a bunch of frivolous allegations on Schmitt and Glover—allegations that he hadn’t investigated on his own when they occurred and for which he hadn’t suggested disciplinary action. He has been primarily a hatchet man during his five-year tenure.

Wells, Barker, Wilkins and Sisson are part of the most disgraceful decision in the city’s recent history. They need to be let go.