Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 16th 2014

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The Buzz 7/28/11

COUNCIL WANTS ITS OWN EXECUTIVE The new Pensacola charter abolished the city manager, who was hired and fired by the Pensacola City Council. Instead, the mayor was given the power and authority to hire a city administrator—without council approval.

Pensacola residents and the media were surprised Wednesday, July 20 that the Pensacola City Council is one or two meetings away from approving the hiring of a council executive in the $90,000-$130,000 salary range.

The position had started out as an administrative assistant when it was first approved in 2010, but no one was hired for the position. Mayor Ashton Hayward assigned in February 2010 Elaine Mager, who was the administrative assistant to former city managers Tom Bonfield and Al Coby, to assist the council.

The job title was later upgraded to “council executive” with a salary range of $60,000 to $75,000. The city council changed in April the salary to the vague “base salary commensurate with experience.”

At the July 20 workshop, the public learned for the first time that the city council had narrowed the over 60 applicants to two finalists after meeting individually with a psychologist that had screened the top applicants. The salary mentioned at the workshop was $90,000-$130,000.

The two finalists are Michael Sevante and Mark Kutney. Sevante is the parish administrator for the 14-member St. Tammany Parish Council. The parish, which is similar to our county, has 233,000 people. Sevante is a University of Mississippi graduate and has a law degree from Southern University and a master’s from Southeastern Louisiana University.

Kutney has 34 years of experience with local government. He has two master’s degrees and is the deputy city manager for Belle Glade, Fla., a town of 17,107 with an $18 million budget. He also serves as airport manager and emergency manager.

There is no mention of how fast either candidate can type.

ARREST CLOSE Investigators have collected DNA samples from the twine used to strangle the pregnant cow in the Ebon area over Memorial Day weekend. The IN received a phone call from a private investigator who specializes in animal cruelty cases. He is confident that it is only a matter of time before the killers are identified.

BP FINE BOAT HAS ROOM The allocation of the BP fines for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which could exceed $30 billion, has been agreed upon by the U.S. Senators from the Gulf States.

The five states impacted by the disaster, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, would equally divide 35 percent of the monies. Sixty percent of the funds would be directed to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, and 5 percent would go to a new Gulf science and fisheries program.

“This is a good step that consensus has developed between the Gulf states in the Senate,” Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson told the IN. “We believe both Senators Nelson and Rubio have displayed leadership in this effort and have negotiated the best deal they could for Florida.

However, Robinson said the final vote on the allocation formula is still weeks away. “This is a first step in a long legislative process,” said Robinson. “Our analysis indicates that Florida is not fully covered for its losses because the Senate version primarily favors environmental injuries. It is our hope as well as that of Northwest Florida Congressmen Jeff Miller and Steve Southerland that the House could pursue a position that more adequately addresses Florida’s injury.”

TOBACCO JUDGMENT UPHELD The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday, July 19 upheld a Pensacola jury’s order that the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. pay nearly $30 million to a woman whose husband died of lung cancer after decades of smoking its cigarettes.

The court issued a brief ruling saying it would not review the product liability award nor entertain any further motions for rehearing. The tobacco company, a unit of Reynolds American Inc., argued the award was excessive.

In 2009, a state court jury in Pensacola ordered Reynolds to pay more than $3.3 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages to Mathilde Martin (Independent News, “Widow Has Her Day in Court,” June 11, 2009). Her husband, Benny Martin, died in 1995 of lung cancer that she blamed on his long-time smoking of Reynolds’ “Lucky Strike” cigarettes.

CHILDERS FOR CLERK Pam Childers plans to file this fall for the Escambia County Clerk of Courts. Childers is the Financial Services Manager of City of Pensacola. Ernie Lee Magaha has held the Clerk position since 1957 and is up for re-election in 2012. Magaha has not pre-filed for the position.

LEAGUE WON’T REINSTATE REGISTRATION In the wake of the League of Women Voters of Florida’s decision to halt its voter registration efforts as a result of the recently passed elections bill, HB 1355, there has been speculation that League volunteers could continue to register voters under the auspices of their local Supervisor of Elections’ office.

In a press release, organization officials stated, “The League enjoys excellent relationships with Supervisors throughout the state, however, it does not view the ‘deputizing’ of voter registrars as a panacea for the problems created by HB 1355.”

League president Deirdre Macnab said, “While the League supports the efforts of Supervisors to ‘deputize’ voter registrars, we do not believe that an individual should have to be deputized in order to help citizens register to vote. HB 1355 has created a situation in which well-meaning volunteers are afraid to do voter registration, and that is a real tragedy. The League hopes that this law will be overturned so that our members can continue conducting voter registration without unnecessary regulation and threat of civil penalty.”

At this time, the League has no plans to reinstate its voter registration program unless the new law is repealed or modified such that it feels capable of complying with the third-party voter registration requirements.