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The Pensacola City Council on Thursday passed a resolution expressing its support for embattled police chief David Alexander, who is being forced by Mayor Ashton Hayward’s office to retire this spring.

Hayward appointed Alexander — the first black police chief in the city’s history — back in 2015, but now says that he won’t keep Alexander on as chief when his current contract expires in May.

The resolution, introduced by Councilwoman Sherri Myers, “expresses [the council’s] continued confidence in Police Chief David Alexander III and in his ability to continue as the leader of the Pensacola Police Department.” Council members adopted the resolution in a unanimous 6-0 vote — with Councilman Larry B. Johnson absent — but it’s a largely symbolic gesture. Under Pensacola’s mayor-council form of government, the chief of police serves at the pleasure of the mayor.

It’s unclear why Hayward has decided not to keep Alexander on as chief. His office originally pointed to a provision in the city code which bars police and fire employees from being re-employed after completing the five-year Deferred Retirement Option Program — in which Alexander is currently enrolled — saying the ordinance would have to be changed by the city council in order for Alexander to remain chief.

The contract signed by Alexander in 2015 reflects the DROP date. “In no event shall employee have any expectation of continued employment in any capacity,” the contract reads, “including the use of any accrued leave or other benefit, with the City beyond May 14, 2017.” Alexander has said that he didn’t expect to be promoted to chief when he entered the DROP program in 2012.

But the ordinance at issue only bars re-employment if it would provide the employee with further retirement benefits. Myers and others have argued that the ordinance doesn’t need to be changed, and that Hayward could simply offer Alexander a new contract which explicitly excluded him from any new participation in city retirement programs.

Hayward’s office has declined requests to explain his position further, saying only that the mayor “thinks very highly of Chief Alexander and is thankful for his service.” Hayward told WEAR last week that he won’t keep Alexander on as chief beyond May 14, regardless of any action the city council may take. Assistant Chief Tommi Lyter will be promoted to chief, Hayward said.

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