Last week, the Pensacola City Council voted to move forward with hiring its own budget analyst, sparking another clash between the council and Mayor Ashton Hayward over the powers of each under the 2010 city charter.
The move is the latest in the council’s effort to expand its staff since 2014, when city voters narrowly approved a charter amendment which allows the council to hire employees independently of the mayor. Hayward opposed that amendment, saying it added an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to city government. Since its approval, council members have hired a full-time council executive as well as two aides.
The 2014 amendment specifically authorizes the council to hire a budget analyst. Both that charter amendment as well as the action last week were sponsored by Councilwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn.
“We are the legislative body, we’re in charge of the budget, and I think that we need help in understanding that role,” Cannada-Wynn said.
But Hayward’s office has pointed to the fact that there’s already a full-time budget analyst within the city’s finance department, arguing that a second budget analyst under the council’s staff would be unnecessary and duplicative. On Wednesday, Hayward told council members he was vetoing their action.
“There are more pressing needs within the City of Pensacola that would directly benefit the taxpayers,” Hayward wrote to council members in a memo Wednesday. “Therefore I am vetoing this action.”
The problem? At least one council member says Hayward doesn’t have that authority.
The 2010 charter gives the mayor the power to veto ordinances and resolutions, as well as line items in the annual budget approved by the council. But council’s move last week was neither an ordinance nor a resolution, falling instead under what the council calls “council actions.”
“He does not have the authority to meddle in the legislative powers of the city council that are clearly enumerated in the charter,” said Councilwoman Sherri Myers. “Furthermore, the council has already acted on this and appropriated the funds and passed the budget for 2016. So he should have vetoed it then. Even if he had the authority, it is too late.”
Hayward sees things differently.
“All actions taken by the City Council that are not an ordinance are considered a resolution,” said city spokesperson Vernon Stewart.
If Hayward’s veto is valid, council members will have the opportunity to override the veto at their next meeting in April. An override would require the support of five of the council’s seven members. The vote last week to approve the budget analyst hire was 4-1, with two council members absent from the meeting.