Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward’s deposition was taken Wednesday in connection with federal lawsuits filed by two former Pensacola Fire Department chiefs fired by Hayward last year.
Hayward terminated the employment of fire chief Matt Schmitt and deputy chief Joseph Glover last May after a highly publicized three-month City Hall investigation into the department’s management practices. The investigation — conducted by an outside attorney at a cost of over $113,000 — found that Schmitt had “repeatedly violated city policy” in his handling of donations to the department. The 132-page report also cited concerns about Schmitt’s hiring practices as chief as well as internal disputes both within the fire department and between Schmitt and Glover and City Hall.
Schmitt filed suit in federal court last August, alleging that the investigation and his termination were done in retaliation for Schmitt’s efforts to defend Glover, who is black, from alleged harassment by Edward Sisson, the city’s white human resources director. The city launched the investigation just months after Glover filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging race-based pay disparities and as well as harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Glover filed a suit of his own last December.
Hayward is a named defendant in both suits. Other city officials — including Sisson, city administrator Eric Olson, and others — were originally named in the suits but have since been dropped. As mayor, Hayward oversees the city’s workforce and has the charter authority to discipline or remove employees in any department.
Both Schmitt and Glover are seeking reinstatement to the fire department, as well as back pay, damages, and court costs.