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City Of Pensacola COO Resigns

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Tamara Fountain resigned Monday as the City of Pensacola’s Chief Operating Officer, 11 months after accepting the position and after weeks of controversy.

A news release from the city says that Fountain is leaving to “pursue other opportunities.”

“After everything she’s been through, I saw the letter she sent to [the] City Council. You know, I think enough of it has taken its toll on her, and she was ready to move on,” said Mayor Ashton Hayward.

Fountain’s departure comes in the wake of media backlash over reports of her educational background, which includes a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from UWF. The sticking part was the Mayor’s claim, on television, that she had a master’s degree in that field.

“Ms. Fountain is a terrific person, she did a great job,” the Mayor said. “She took over a lot of duties overseeing our enterprises and being a liaison between my office and the directors of these enterprises. So really, that had nothing to do with it. A master’s degree wasn’t asked of her; it wasn’t in the job description.”

Attempts to reach Fountain for an interview were unsuccessful. She was named COO in September of 2014, succeeding Colleen Castille, who left after a year on the job. The Mayor asked Fountain to come aboard as Chief Operating Officer.

Just last month, Hayward placed Fountain in charge of some major city properties, including the International Airport and Port of Pensacola: both of which are home to major economic development projects. Her salary also rose, reportedly from about $80,000 per year to $114,000. The promotion also put her, as Chief Operating Officer, at the same level as City Administrator Eric Olson, who’s now her successor along with other senior staff members.

In a letter to the Pensacola City Council, Fountain said her decision to resign was due to personal attacks that she calls unfair and unproductive. She also charged that some of the local media and bloggers repeatedly crossed the line, and bullied public officials and employees.

Hayward was asked if the media’s criticism had any link to the dispute between the city and businessman Quint Studer over three parcels of land at Maritime Park. Studer walked away from the deal last month, after the city made 22 changes to the proposal.

“You have a few nay-sayers who don’t ever want to see change,” said Hayward. “The Maritime Park is challenging, to get the bond issues. And at the end of the day, the city is the backstop to repay these bonds. We all have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers, and it would be irresponsible not to look at people sending stuff to the Council and to the Mayor’s office, and not have our legal team review it.”

After the failed deal, social media and local online forums blew up over it. Many called for Fountain’s resignation, and some also called for Mayor Hayward to follow her out the door. Hayward’s response is somewhat predictable.

“I think that’s ridiculous,” Hayward said. “I strongly feel the majority of Pensacolians out there know we’re going a great job.”

In his written statement, Mayor Ashton Hayward said Tamara Fountain met each challenge he assigned her. In her letter to the City Council, Fountain said it’s been an honor to work for the city and its residents.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.