Pensacola city council president Charles Bare has called a special council meeting for May 26 to discuss Mayor Ashton Hayward’s recent investigation and termination of the city’s top two fire department officials.
Hayward fired Fire Chief Matt Schmitt and Deputy Chief Joseph Glover last week following a nearly three-month investigation into the two men. The investigation, conducted by Pensacola attorney Russell VanSickle, generated a 132-page report chronicling the often-tumultuous relationship between the chiefs and Hayward’s staff at City Hall, along with an array of mostly minor allegations against Schmitt and Glover.
The chiefs’ termination was the subject of much discussion at last Thursday’s city council meeting, with about a dozen supporters of the chiefs making allegations of racism within Hayward’s administration and calling for Hayward’s resignation or recall. Council members then discussed the issue for about a half-hour toward the end of the meeting.
“What comes to my mind is not an investigation,” said Bare. “It’s more of an impeachment. You know, it’s we’ve got these charges, so we need to make sure these charges fit, so we can convict and fire these two employees. And that’s to me what happened.”
Some council members, however, are questioning the point of a meeting on the subject. Under the city charter, the mayor has the power to hire and fire nearly all city employees, including fire department personnel. The charter expressly prohibits city council members from “interference” in personnel matters.
“I think the first question that we need to decide is what’s the purpose,” said Councilman P.C. Wu. “We cannot compel the mayor to rehire somebody. We cannot compel the mayor to hire somebody. We cannot compel the mayor to fire anybody. I have no problem discussing it but I want to sort of know where we’re going to go with it, because I don’t want to spend three hours and end up nowhere.”
Councilman Larry B. Johnson echoed Wu’s comments Monday, saying that he respected Hayward’s decision. “I don’t know if we have this meeting what it will really accomplish,” said Johnson. “I don’t know what else we can really do.”
The special city council meeting on the fire chiefs investigation will take place on Thursday, May 26 beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the city council chambers on the first floor of Pensacola City Hall, located at 222 West Main Street.