'Disorderly' crowd forces Marco council meeting to end early

A packed Marco Island City Council meeting adjourned abruptly Monday night after the crowd became "unruly" amid allegations of possible Sunshine Law violations.

Some in the crowd argued that as reported in Monday's edition of the Marco Eagle possible violations of Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law tainted decisions relating to the controversial seven-year septic tank replacement program and that there should be a moratorium on all issues relating to the program until an investigation of the violations occurred.

After hearing from members of the crowd, one of whom called the program "a grand criminal conspiracy," Councilman Chuck Kiester made a motion to stop all items related to the septic tank replacement program. The motion failed 5-2 with Kiester and Councilman Ted Forcht, consistent sewer opponents, in the minority.

Following a smattering of boos, Vice Chairman Glenn Tucker moved to adjourn. It passed on a 6-1 vote with Kiester dissenting.

The meeting, which drew 150 people, ended after half an hour.

"The crowd was unruly and I didn't sense it was going to end," said Tucker, a councilman since Marco's incorporation in 1997. "This is the earliest and most vociferous the crowd has ever been."

"I'll make the same motion at every meeting when the crowd is as disorderly as this," Tucker added. "It's more civil than having the (police) chief throw them out."

The crowd, council members and city staff all seemed stunned by the decision. City Manager Bill Moss said that this was the first time he had seen a meeting adjourn so quickly in 33 years as a city manager.

Kiester said: "I'm surprised and shocked. It makes no sense to me. Next time you'll have twice as many people here. It just shows disdain for the citizens of Marco."

The Sunshine Law allegations, prompted by an open records request from two Marco residents and sewer opponents Butch Neylon and Ray Beaufort, center on former city councilman John Arceri.

Arceri wrote e-mails in summer 2005 regarding the septic tank replacement program and an adjustment to the water and wastewater rates. The Eagle story attributed a statement to the director of the First Amendment Foundation (FAF), an open government advocacy group, saying that she "believes" council members broke the law.

Arceri denied the charges Monday afternoon in an e-mail to Moss and blamed the story for publishing "inaccuracies and inuendos (sic)."

"All (the FAF director) did was just cite the law," Arceri later said in a telephone interview. "She was just speaking generalities. (The story) leaves an impression in someone's mind that I am already guilty of violating the law."

Adria Harper, the FAF director, sent an e-mail to the Eagle on Monday saying that she wanted to clarify her remarks. She wrote that she did not say a violation of the Sunshine Law occurred and that her comments for the most part related to general e-mail correspondence.

When contacted by phone Monday, Harper echoed those points.

"I can't say if there's a violation of the Sunshine Law," she said. "Only a court can say."

"I don't really know the context of the situation," she added. "I was told these issues are controversial so there could be a problem of not having everything relating to them out in the open."

As written in the article, Harper reiterated Monday that the e-mails, which also involved former councilwoman Vickie Kelber, and current council members Mike Minozzi and Terri DiSciullo could be "problematic" if they related to issues that would involve foreseeable public business.

In its story the Eagle article quoted Harper as saying, "If a court determines that there was a Sunshine Law violation, then any decision that came forth from that discussion is void."

Contacted Monday night, Eagle Editor Tom Rife said that the only thing he would have changed about the story was to include comment from Arceri and Moss.

"I think what (staff writer Ed Bania) wrote was informational," Rife said. "I think Adria Harper is not the one who decides who violates the Sunshine Law, the courts do. I think the article says that."

Rife said that there would be nothing in Tuesday's paper immediately related to the story, but that the newspaper would be tracking the issue.

"We'll be following up on that story for some time," he said. "And I think the Daily News will, too."

Marco City Attorney Rich Yovanovich said that he would begin an investigation of the e-mails if directed by the council.

"I would need to see all (the e-mails)," he said. "I would need to see the whole chain. It's important to remember that (any Sunshine Law violation) can be cured if action is taken at a public meeting and that's what has happened in this case."

Items on Monday night's agenda, including the awarding of contracts for the 2007 portion of the septic tank replacement program, will be heard at the council's next regular meeting on Feb. 20, Moss said after speaking with DiSciullo on the telephone following the meeting.

© 2007 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 8

TheIslander writes:

Paul I think it is asinine of you to accuse the NDN of censorship. If anything your side is given free rain to say what you want. I mean last night on one of the stories people were writing in that the reason the meeting was canceled was because members of the City Council were drinking. Most of the accusations and statements made by your side should be censored in my option. I think you should thank the NDN for giving you this forum to spew your thoughts. This seems to be the only place your side can clam victory.

conchsoup writes:

I am outraged that mob mentality, (stoked by a run amuck reporter’s deranged recounting of events including creating a title designed to incite and inflame and revealing his obvious bias), is allowed to close down the City’s rightful business with their unruly behavior.
At the next meeting, the police might have to enforce the right of the City Council to do its business by removing disruptive, non-law abiding attendees.

I cancelled delivery of my Eagle yesterday afternoon. I have had enough of Rife and Bania. They have gone beyond irresponsible to destructive and continue to fail to see their incompetence. I am disturbed that the normally thoughtful Phil Lewis is shielding them. He is getting spattered by this mud.

1Paradiselost writes:

The question here seems to be simple, after reading the cities interdepartmental E-mails; do you feel that some of the members of the Marco Island City Counsel violated the sunshine laws? Yes or No. Was there inside knowage that the sewer and water plant were worn out? Was this disclosed to the taxpayers before the purchase of the plant? Please remember, weather you are sewers or not. All residents of Marco Island are paying for the water and sewer plant thru their tax dollars. The residents of this Island own the sewer and water plant. We as residents were asked to pay for a broken sewer and water system without full disclosure. Should not the people reasonable for spending our tax dollars be held accountable for this unwise purchase? Why anyone is surprised what happen at the city counsel meeting is beyond me. The people of this Island are feed up with the lack of concern shown by our city government. We entrust the city to spend our tax dollars wisely. What’s wrong with residents on Marco expecting full disclosure from there government. To you residents who are currently on sewers. Where’s your outrage? It’s your money too. The hand writing is on the wall. Can one be so blind you can’t see? I am looking forward to your replies. Please only give the facts as you see them. Please no name calling. It’s time that all residents come together for the common good of this island paradise before it’s to late.

stopthedestructionofmarco writes:

1Paradiselost, well said!

jwputnam writes:

Agreed, well said. Very well said.

A minority have an agenda. You won't sway them.

1Paradiselost writes:

Mikeinnaples, if you could, as your name suggests. May I suggest, you pay more attention to what’s going on in Naples than in Marco. Maybe you should get involved with noise ordinance problems downtown or the setback issues in Naples. When you start paying taxes here on Marco, maybe you would have a little more creditability. As far as your question “Why wasn't the Jolly Bridge pier rebuilt again”? Let me remind you that half of the bridge is in Naples. Maybe you should get involved in Naples politics, and ask you government representives why it has’nt been rebuilt.

Eagleeye writes:

Wow, this gets more entertaining by the day. Baby bonnets and pacifiers for the Marco Malcontents! (I'd say diapers, too, but that just may be a little too close to home.) Soon they'll be featured on the cover of Modern Immaturity magazine.

rcbauburn writes:

At least we understand who the Marco Malcontents really are. It is not the people who are working diligently to bring to the forfront the dirty politics and outright thievery of our resident's assets. Those that are pushing to stop some of these atrocities are doing it for everyone on the island, not just a few. Our tax dollars are being ripped from all of us to pay for this plant that was known to be in bad shape. Of course, had our council polled the islanders or asked questions of residents out of the closed doors that they used, we wouldn't be where we are today.
Bob Brown

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