Pensacola, Florida
Saturday August 24th 2019

Archives

The Buzz 8/15/19

Supermajority The Escambia County School Board discussed the proposed policies regarding its appointed superintendent at a workshop on August 1. Voters last year passed a referendum changing the position from elected to appointed, and the board will have to choose Malcolm Thomas’ replacement before he leaves office in November 2020.

One policy that Inweekly has questioned is the recommendation that a supermajority of the school board—four of five members—would need to agree to remove a superintendent if the board didn’t have a “good cause” for termination. The Escambia County Commission can remove its administrator with three votes.

School Board Member Kevin Adams couldn’t find any Florida school district that required a supermajority.

“I went to I don’t know how many school district sites the last couple of days,” said Adams. “I couldn’t find anything on a supermajority, because that’s four board members it would take.”

Superintendent Thomas defended the recommendation. He said, “It’s just trying to give the superintendent a little bit of flexibility. And I don’t foresee it with this group. We’ve not had those issues, but I don’t know what would happen in the future.”

He continued, “I don’t know who you’re going to get. I don’t know who’s going to sit on the board or what the personalities will be like, how people will get crossed. And we just hate to see a good superintendent lose their job and be terminated because they were just trying to do what they thought was the right thing to do and it wasn’t cause or performance or any of those things.”

Staff argued the supermajority was necessary to protect the superintendent from three board members terminating employment for “a strictly arbitrary or capricious reason.”

Adams appeared to have little support for changing the recommendation. Board members Patty Hightower, Paul Fetsko and Bill Slayton supported the supermajority requirement, while Dr. Laura Edler didn’t voice an opinion.

The board will discuss the policies regarding the appointed superintendent process again at a special workshop at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15, at the Hall Center, 30 E. Texar Dr.

No Joint Task Force Needed On Tuesday, Aug. 7, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan told the media that he didn’t see the need for a special regional task force on gun-related crimes, which Mayor Grover Robinson is trying to form.

In an exclusive interview, Morgan told Inweekly that his agency has always had a task force on gangs and gun-related crimes (“They’re Heere,” 4/2/09).

“In ‘09, we were facing not only an uptick in gun crimes, but also we were the first administration to start identifying gangs and gang activity in Escambia County, and, of course, those two are kind of a hand-in-glove situation,” said the sheriff. “We had three FDLE agents assigned and working with us initially. And I think I had six people at one time.”

He added, “As we progressed in our cataloging and identification of gangs and other criminal activity associated with gangs—the associated drugs, etc.—the force was kind of pared down due to other operational requirements, but it never went away.”

As the unit was reduced, FDLE embedded an agent with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for approximately two years.

“That FDLE agent was finally reassigned, and we went down to about three people,” said Morgan. “And we’ve consistently had three or more people assigned to a task force, and my folks continue to keep up to date on gangs, gang activity and weapons associated with that.”

In 2012 after a series of gang-related drive-by shootings, Sheriff Morgan spearheaded a gun crime response task force that involved the city, state and federal law enforcement.

“That was in response to the uptick of homicide, and we started to catalog a growing number of violent crimes involving weapons,” said the sheriff. “We wanted to, again, reach out and partner with those folks that could provide a faster turnaround.”

However, local law enforcement has improved over the past seven years. He said, “We’ve developed a tremendous amount of capabilities on our own, as well as Florida Department of Law Enforcement. So what I can’t do in-house, I literally drive down the street to Palafox to the FDLE headquarters and their lab and their lab capability is, you know, probably as good as any place you can go.”

Law enforcement has been traditionally superstitious about crime statistics, Morgan explained when asked about the current status of gun-related crimes. Whenever an agency brags about its crime rates, something happens and the statistics worsen.

“Right now, I would say that we’re keeping with kind of a norm in Escambia County, if there is such a thing, meaning it’s not up and it’s not down,” Morgan shared cautiously. “We normally average somewhere between 12 and 16 or 17 homicides a year. A good year is when you get less than that. A bad year is when you go over that.”

The sheriff said that his agency tracks trends, not statistics.

“If a trend is going in the wrong direction, that’s something that I now need to notice. Is there an uptick in property crimes, burglaries, home invasions, those sorts of things, sex crimes? So we re-martial forces and focus on those things within, again, the sheriff’s office when that happens,” he said.

Before the sheriff reaches out to an outside agency, such as the Department of Justice, he prefers to partner locally first.

“I would look to partner with the Pensacola Police Department on many things if it involves patrol and traffic and those sorts of things, and even investigations, narcotics,” he said. “We can certainly commission those folks and work into an operation with them. And then that way, we can combine our forces for short periods of time.

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office has also partnered with FDLE, the Florida Highway Patrol and Fish and Wildlife.

“We usually try to keep it in-house, and we’ll coordinate most of those efforts with the State Attorney’s office because, ultimately, regardless of what agency conducts the initial investigations, we always lateral that ball to the state attorney,” he said. “We need to make sure that they’re kept on the information loop for all these things that we do.”

Biden Leads Field Joe Biden still leads the Democratic presidential field among Florida Democrats after the second round of debates, according to the latest Inweekly/Political Matrix poll.

Biden leads with 41.5%, followed by Bernie Sanders (15.9%), Elizabeth Warren (11.4%), Kamala Harris (7.2%) and Pete Buttigieg (6%). The rest of the respondents (17.9%) said they would vote for someone else in the race.

The persons sampled were likely Florida Democratic voters with a voting score of 100% for the general election cycles. The voters were called using an Interactive Voice Response system during the hours of 1-7 p.m. between Aug. 2 and Aug. 5. The margin of error for this study is +/- 5.5% with a confidence level of 95%.

Night Out at Legion Field The Pensacola Police Department and Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, along with Escambia County Fire Rescue, Escambia County EMS, Community Drug & Alcohol Council Inc., City of Pensacola Parks and Recreation and Academy Sports + Outdoors, hosted National Night Out on Aug. 7 at Legion Field, handing out school supplies at the Theophalis May Community Center.

Escambia County Commission Chairman Lumon May said it was a great opportunity for the community to come together.

“We can show how we can collaborate, communicate, educate and help each other. It builds relationships,” said May. “I think children, particularly in the urban core, should have relationships with law enforcement. But more importantly, law enforcement should have a relationship with children. So, I’m excited about being here.”

Commissioner May joined Mayor Grover Robinson, Escambia County Chief Deputy Chip Simmons and Pensacola Police Captain Chuck Mallett in welcoming the crowd, which also included Pensacola City Councilwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn and Councilman P.C. Wu.

Dream Defenders before CRA Members of the community organization Dream Defenders publicly staked out its position on the city of Pensacola’s response thus far to an incident in July during which a citizen was fatally shot by a city police officer.

Jamal Davis began his comments during the public forum of the Community Redevelopment Agency by casting doubt on the city’s official version of the July 5 event. The Pensacola Police Department has stated that Tymar Crawford was fatally shot by an officer after disarming another officer.

“We know and the police know and we believe that the city officials know that this story is a lie,” Davis said, asserting that there exists privately-held video evidence to support this.

The police shooting of Crawford is currently being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. City officials—notably Mayor Grover Robinson and Police Chief Tommi Lyter—have indicated they will hold off on any action until FDLE wraps up its investigation, although both have also said there is a need for more training of a police force with a bench heavy with young officers.

Earlier in the day, during his weekly press conference, Mayor Robinson had fielded a question about the existence of a video of the incident.

“I don’t have a video,” the mayor said, adding that when the FDLE investigation ended, the city would make officer bodycam footage public in an effort to be “as open as possible.”

“We’re going to be absolutely open. We want to put it out there and let everybody see it and see all the facts when they get it.”

Dream Defenders has previously issued a list of demands to city officials in the wake of the police shooting. Davis reiterated those points Monday, Aug. 6, at the CRA meeting.

“These police are paid with our tax dollars, and they’re out here harassing and killing citizens,” Davis said, requesting the city release the identities of the officers involved in the incident. “We have a right to know their names and faces.”

Davis noted to city council members that a good chunk of the city’s budget, around 60 percent of its general fund, is committed to funding public safety.

“Yet here we are, feeling anything but safe in our city,” he said, suggesting that some of the funds be used toward such things as quality mental healthcare, affordable housing and public education.

Following the Dream Defenders appearance at the CRA meeting, Haley Morrissette, a representative with the organization, offered a statement.

“Mayor Robinson has chosen to speak out of both sides of his mouth,” Morrissette elaborated the organization’s position in a written response when asked for further comment.

Morrissette charged that the mayor is “playing lip service to the people of Pensacola who are rallying behind Tymar Crawford and his family” while also engaging federal law enforcement in an exercise the group believes is going to “make our policing problem worse.”

“Instead of addressing the inequities, training for current officers and lack of resources that drive the violence that has actually decreased in the last year, he has chosen to contradict himself,” Morrissette wrote. “And actions speak louder than words.”

Radiothon To support the Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart’s Bear Family Foundation Pediatric Oncology Center of Hope, tune in during the first-ever Cat Country 98.7 Cares for Kids Radiothon 5 a.m.-7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16. All funds raised during the event will support the Pediatric Oncology Center of Hope. Wind Creek Hospitality has agreed to match donations up to $20,000.

To hear the live broadcast, the public can tune in to local radio stations Cat Country 98.7, NewsRadio 92.3, ESPN Pensacola and 1330 WEBY. In addition, WEAR-TV 3 news anchor Sue Straughn will be on site to interview young patients and their families, as well as physicians, leaders and staff.

Call 850-416-KIDS (5437) to make a pledge. Volunteers will be on site to take calls. Gifts can also be made at givesacredheart.org/donate.

GB Will Do Gulf Breeze Will Do plans to hold a social gathering 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20, at Beef O’Brady’s, 344 Gulf Breeze Pkwy. Gulf Breeze Will Do is a woman’s philanthropy which pools membership dues to award grants of up to $10,000 to causes benefitting the “greater Gulf Breeze” areas of Gulf Breeze, Pensacola Beach, Tiger Point and Midway.

Grant applications for the 2019 awards will be available at the event. Members, prospective members and grant applicants are invited to attend to learn more about Gulf Breeze Will Do.

Membership dues are $250 per person and are tax-deductible. To learn more, visit gulfbreezewilldo.org.

Mark Your Calendars City Hall Selfie Day is Thursday, Aug. 15. Visit city hall or any government building, snap a photo of yourself or your group and post the photo to social media using the hashtag #CityHallSelfie.

Panhandle Tiger Bay Club will host Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 16, at Skopelos at New World, 600 S. Palafox. Prices are $35 for guests; $25 for military and students with proper ID. To RSVP, email info@panhandletigerbay.com.

Santa Rosa County Legislative Delegation members Representative Jayer Williamson, Representative Alex Andrade and Senator Doug Broxson have scheduled a public hearing for 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commission Chambers, 6495 Caroline St., Milton.

City Zoning Board of Adjustment will meet at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21, in the Hagler-Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor, City Hall.