Pensacola, Florida
Saturday October 25th 2014

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Outtakes 12/08/11

TOUGH LESSONS Watching a Pensacola City Council meeting is a painful experience. We’re told that democracy can be messy, but the city fathers and mothers have taken messy to a new level. The most recent demonstration of how out of whack the group can get is the botched handling of the interlocal agreement by the Community Redevelopment Agency.

An outside attorney was hired, expenses incurred and an alternative agreement drafted with no votes by the board. It wasn’t until this paper began making public record requests were the oversights discovered. The CRA took two hours to figure out how to rectify the situation and keep the CRA chairperson from losing her council seat.

Although several council members have served multiple terms, it appears none of them understand how to serve on the council or the basics of Robert’s Rules of Order. Few motions are made. Too much is done by general consensus.

Maybe the Council became too dependent on the city staff under the old form of government. When Ashton Hayward got elected in 2010 and began making changes, the Council lost its bearings.

And who did the council members turn to to help them find their way? The very staff that Hayward ran against and had opposed the new city charter two years earlier.

Instead of working with the Mayor’s office, the old staff helped foster conflict and poorly advised the Council. When the city council president asked for help on how to do the council agenda, former City Manager Al Coby advised her.  Conflict arose when the President created a process that had her approving Mayor Hayward’s agenda items before they were placed before council. It wasn’t until July or August before that was resolved.

When the city council began its ill-fated attempt to hire its own executive, who guided them through that process? Former HR Director Mary Ann Stalcup. And who was the city staff person that directed the CRA chairperson to execute a contract with outside counsel without board approval? Former CRA Administrator Becky Bray.

Now it’s difficult to tell if these former city employees deliberately sabotaged the Council or they were just telling the members what they thought they wanted to hear. However, the end result has been the Council has lost the public’s confidence.

Fortunately, a new year is on the horizon. Most of the “old guard” at city hall has left, but the question remains—will  the Council learn from its mistakes?