For the second time this year, Pensacola city council president Charles Bare is asking council members to sign off on the hire of two new full-time staffers.
The two positions — an attorney and a budget analyst — would join the three full-time staffers currently working for the council. The council in August hired a council executive, and last month approved the hire of two executive assistants. Together, the three current positions bring the council staff’s annual payroll to nearly $200,000. Salaries for the two new positions haven’t been specified, but according to the city’s pay charts for the two classifications, they could be paid as much as $139,964 and $43,868, respectively.
Voters in 2014 narrowly approved an amendment to the city charter allowing the council to hire and fire its own staff. Previously, all employees — including those assigned to the council — were hired and fired by the mayor, a provision that Crystal Spencer, chairwoman of the commission which drafted the 2010 charter, has said was deliberate. Spencer said in 2011 that the commission “never contemplated” the city council having a separate staff. The 2014 amendment specifically names four positions but provides council members with the authority to hire an unspecified number of staff.
Councilman Larry Johnson said he doesn’t believe the council has a need for a full-time attorney or budget analyst. “I believe this is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Johnson said Wednesday. “I don’t know what these people are going to do for 40 hours a week.”
Johnson pointed out that the city already has a full-time budget analyst on staff, as well as several attorneys.
Mayor Ashton Hayward said that while he respects the voters’ decision in approving the amendment, he doesn’t feel the additional staff is warranted. “We don’t need it,” Hayward said Wednesday. “My goal when I ran for office five years ago was to shrink the government. We’ve got enough resources here at City Hall to answer their questions.”
Though she feels the council has a need for independent legal advice, councilwoman Sherri Myers said that she would prefer an attorney be consulted on an as-needed basis. “I do not support a full time attorney as I do not believe there will be enough work to justify it,” Myers said. “I do support a full time budget analyst with experience in municipality budgeting. I think it can be justified on the basis that the budget is something we deal with everyday and at every council meeting.”