Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday July 23rd 2019

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Outtakes—Spread the Criticism

By Rick Outzen

At a recent press conference, Mayor Grover Robinson complained that the previous administration had spent $17.9 million worth of future gas tax for a 2,016-block resurfacing project that was completed late last year.

“We spent all the money on the resurfacing, and we have drainage problems that are unaddressed,” Mayor Robinson said.

He criticized former Mayor Ashton Hayward for failing to take into consideration how the resurfacing would impact stormwater concerns and may have made flooding worse in some neighborhoods.

“We basically went and bonded 10 years’ worth of gas tax,” Robinson said. “Now we’re stuck with some drainage problems and no real money to fix them.”

Inweekly questioned the wisdom on the project when it was announced in the summer of 2016 that Mayor Ashton Hayward would borrow $15-million for the resurfacing project that some felt would literally pave his way to a third term.

The mastermind who put together the financial plan was Dick Barker, whom Robinson has retained as his chief financial officer. We all know Hayward didn’t come up the scheme. Without Barker, the bond issuance wouldn’t have been possible.

Mayor, when you sat on the county commission, you saw how badly Barker handled the city’s negotiations with the county over the allocation of the local gas tax. He never presented the commission’s proposal to the council. The city went ahead and borrowed the $15 million without an interlocal agreement with the county in place.

City Councilwoman Sherri Myers told Inweekly at the time that she felt like Barker had “stabbed her in the back.” She said of the borrowing, “It’s malfeasance to borrow $15 million without a funding source.”

Mayor, you and I know the borrowing was done to pressure the county commission to give into Hayward’s demands. Barker helped orchestrate the financial maneuver. And you know fully why your former colleagues on the commission have little trust in your CFO.

The rumor that Robinson plans to hire Amy Lovoy, who announced her resignation on Monday, might give the new mayor an avenue to clean up the city’s finance department and rebuild its relationship with the county, but Hayward’s holdovers seem to find a way to stay on the payroll.

And while you’re examining the role your CFO played in what you’ve called “a serious political miscalculation,” the public should be asking, why did the city council, except for Myers, blindly follow Hayward’s spendthrift proposal? Not one of them had the business savvy or financial expertise to realize Hayward and Barker were tying the hands of the future administration for short-term political gains.

Mayor, your predecessor deserves some criticism for his shortsightedness, but please realize several of his enablers are still in city hall.