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Tuesday July 29th 2014

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Cold Feet in Florence


The Pensacola City Council needs help. But it’s not coming from South Carolina.

Bill Reynolds, Pensacola City Administrator, informed council members today that their selected candidate for the new Council Executive position would not be taking the job.

“It’s kind of a shocker,” said Council President Maren DeWeese.

According to Reynolds, the job was declined when the city contacted Scotty Davis, who works for the city of Florence, to inform him of the intent to speak with his current employer.

“I’ll let the communication, which you obviously have, speak for itself,” Reynolds said.

Included in Reynolds email to Council members is the text from a letter sent by Davis. The reluctant candidate stated that his current post heading Florence’s Department of Community Services is more closely aligned to his career goals.

“… as I explained when we spoke by phone, I must decline your offer,” wrote Davis, who could not be reached for further comment.

Reynolds detailed in the email further reasons the candidate was stepping away. He said that Davis had come to the conclusion after viewing videos of several Council meetings, as well as holding private one-on-ones with board members. The candidate also reported that he was told the offered salary, around $80,000, would be upped another ten grand to more closely match his current earnings.

“I have no idea what anyone else said to him,” said Council Vice President P.C. Wu. “But I can assure you I did not offer him any more money than was on the table.”

All of the council members reached Tuesday said they had not mentioned raising the salary during the one-on-ones. Brian Spencer, John Jerralds, Megan Pratt and Sam Hall could not be reached for comment.

“I don’t know what council person told him one thing and which one told him something else,” said Councilman Ronald Townsend.

Wu said he believed the issue was the fact that Davis did not want his current employers contacted. He said he couldn’t speak to the assertion that something in previous council meetings gave Davis pause about accepting the job.

“You’re asking me to read the guy’s mind,” Wu said. “If I could do that I would go out and buy a lottery ticket.”
Reynolds also states in his email that the candidate felt the position was not clearly defined. The Council Executive position is a newly created one since the city transitioned to a strong-mayor form of government.

“I don’t think it’s well defined,” said DeWeese, explaining that because it’s new there is no mold on which to base the position. “There’s no yesterday.”

Councilperson Sherri Myers said she thought the somewhat contentious relationship between the Council and the Mayor’s office, with growing pains still being smoothed out, might have created an unwelcoming environment for a prospective employee.

“I can certainly understand anybody’s reluctance to take that position,” she said.

Myers went on to say that it might be difficult to jump on board with an organization who still can’t decide who has the right to hire you.

“It’s really a constitutional issue in my point of view,” Myers said, explaining that she believes the Council, not the Mayor’s office, has the right to hire its executive. “I know that’s not the city attorney’s legal opinion, but it is mine.”

It’s uncertain where the search for a Council Executive will now lead. No one on the Council knows.

“I have no idea,” DeWeese said, noting that because the board unanimously voted to bring Davis to town, there is no back-up plan. “There’s really no one in second place at this point.”

Councilman Larry B. Johnson said he thinks the whole thing might need to be reassessed.

“I just personally think we need to take a step back,” he said.

Johnson argued that perhaps the position should be split into thirds, with the nine board members splitting three assistants. He noted that Escambia County Commissioners each get their own assistant.

“No county commissioner is doing more work than I am right now, and that’s the truth,” Johnson said, explaining that he could really use his own personal assistant.

The Councilman also suggested searching locally for multiple assistants – “take a step back, and start the process over.”

DeWeese said the next opportunity the board will have to discuss the matter will come during its Oct. 10 meeting. Reynolds said it was up to the Council where to go from here.

“This hasn’t been a smooth process, to say the least,” said Councilman Townsend.

And so the adventure continues. In a process that has seen a few bumps along the ride, it appears the spare tire may now need to be dragged out from the trunk.

“I’ll put it this way, I’m not surprised,” said Myers. “In fact, I was half expecting it.”