Pensacola city council members on Monday voted to override Mayor Ashton Hayward’s veto of the council’s vote last month to move forward with hiring its own budget analyst.
All seven council members voted to approve the veto override at a special meeting held before Monday’s agenda conference.
“I completely respect Council’s decision to override my veto of hiring a budget analyst,” Hayward said in a statement following the vote. “The purpose of the veto was to underscore my objection to what I thought was an unnecessary cost to the taxpayers. Our team has always worked well with city council on all legislative issues, and I expect that to continue.”
The veto and subsequent override center on a conflict that dates back to at least 2014, when city council members placed a city charter amendment on the ballot that would give the council the power to hire its own staff independently of the mayor’s authority. Mayor Hayward strongly opposed that amendment, saying it added an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to city government, but city voters narrowly approved the language.
Since then, council members have hired an executive and two assistants, and in March took steps to hire a budget analyst, a position explicitly authorized in the 2014 charter amendment. Hayward vetoed that action, saying that there were “more pressing needs” in the city and that the position would be duplicate work already done within the city’s finance department, which works for Hayward.
Several council members have questioned whether or not Hayward even has the authority to veto council’s action, given that the council is explicitly authorized by the city charter to hire staff. City Attorney Lysia Bowling opined last week that the mayor did in fact have the authority.
Bowling argued that because the city charter specifically spells out which actions the mayor can’t veto — emergency ordinances, ordinances adopted as the result of a quasi-judicial proceeding, and ordinances proposing charter amendments — and the budget analyst decision didn’t fall within those categories, the mayor’s veto was valid.
Pensacola attorney Ed Fleming — writing on behalf of his client Barbara Mayall, a regular fixture at city council meetings — disagreed.
“Any other interpretation of these facts would make the Charter’s express provisions for the right of City Council to have an independent budget analyst a nullity,” Fleming wrote in a letter to Mayall which was shared with council members Monday. “I do not believe any Court would reach that absurd result.”