By a 5-2 vote, the Marco Island City Council on Monday approved a request by councilor Ted Forcht to remove Herman Diebler from the Waterways Advisory Committee. Councilors Terri DiSciullo and Rob Popoff voted against Diebler’s removal.
Diebler was appointed by Forcht and began his term in June, 2006. Council members agreed with Forcht’s recommendation that seven-year resident Donald Dilks replace Diebler.
Forcht claimed Diebler, an experienced sailor, spoke negatively to the media as a committee member about the city’s controversial Waterways and Boating Safety Ordinance. Diebler denied the allegation, saying he spoke as a private citizen.
Diebler found out about Forcht’s request from a reporter at the Marco Eagle. Diebler said Forcht never returned his phone calls or e-mails requesting reasons for his dismissal.
Forcht told the Eagle in the Jan. 29, 2007 issue that he wished Diebler had spoken with him before he communicated with the press about his opposition to the ordinance. Diebler said he did not know he had to clear any public comments with Forcht first.
“Where does it say a committee member must be a clone of the councilman?” Diebler said.
He believes he was terminated because Forcht was pressured by his political constituents and the city administration.
Boating groups, including the Sailing Association of Marco Island (SAMI) and the local and statewide chapters of Standing Watch claim the ordinance’s anchoring regulations are illegal because they violate Florida Statute 327.60 that was approved by the Florida Legislature last summer. The state law prohibits local governments from regulating the anchoring of non-live- aboard vessels in navigation outside of city-owned mooring fields. The city of Marco Island doesn’t own a mooring field.
Some of the boating groups have threatened to file law suits or a class action suit against the city regarding the ordinance.
Several experienced boaters and members of SAMI spoke in support of Diebler during Monday’s meeting.
Dean Heard said Diebler is the “force” on the waterways committee.
Carl Henning, whose wife, B.J. is commodore of SAMI, said Diebler has as much or more boating and sailing experience as anyone on the island.
“He knows anchoring, mooring and sea conditions,” Henning said.
Lee Oldershaw asked council members what is the purpose of the advisory committees if they only “mirror” the councilors.
John Owshanik, who also supported Diebler, said he was in Costa Rica recently. During his visit, he told boaters that he was from Marco Island. Owshanik said the boaters replied, “‘Oh, you are from that unfriendly boater community.’ ”
Dilks has been a boater for many years. He owns a motor yacht and is a member of the Marco Island Yacht Club and Annapolis (Maryland) Yacht Club. He manages a small real estate investment firm.