Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of interviews with candidates who are announcing they will run for election to the Marco Island City Council in 2008.
Four Marco Island City Council seats will be available in next year’s election. Chairman Mike Minozzi and Councilor Glenn Tucker cannot run because of term limits. The seats of councilwoman Terri DiSciullo and vice chairman Bill Trotter are also up for election. Neither has announced whether they will run again.
The Eagle reported May 28 that Joe Batte was running for election. Roger Hall’s announcement appeared in the June 18 issue. An article announcing Francis “Butch” Neylon’s candidacy appeared in the June 29 issue.
Resident Kenneth Allen has also decided to run.
“Fellow citizens of Marco Island, I have frequently spoken out publicly about many of the questionable actions taken by our City Council, city manager and director of public works,” he said. “It is now time to stop talking and take action. Therefore I am announcing my candidacy for a position on the City Council.”
Allen, 62, I grew up in Weston, Conn. He and his wife Kathy were married in 1966. The couple has two sons.
After Allen graduated from college with a B.S. in psychology, he applied to the United States Air Force Officer Training School.
Photo by Ed Bania, Eagle staff // Buy this photo
During his 33-year Air Force career, he spent 20 years assigned to the 157th Air Refueling Group at Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire. Later, he was promoted to full colonel and served as a division chief. He retired in 2000.
Since then, Allen has been working part-time, on a contract, as the chief of a team who inspects the aircraft maintenance programs of Air National Guard units throughout the United States.
The Allens first visited Marco Island in 1984. They purchased a home on the island in 2001 and became residents.
Allen said he has extensive experience in local government. He served for 16 years in New Hampshire, including being elected once to a board of “selectmen,” or councilmembers. He was re-elected to four more three-year terms. He was chairman of the board four times, chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment for 16 years and a member of several advisory committees.
“During my 16 years of service we practiced good government and with your support we can have it here too,” Allen said. “I know what good government is and I know what bad government is — Marco Island’s got it.”
He said the board of selectman in New Hampshire did not spend money they didn’t have and respected the voters and listened and addressed their concerns.
Referendums were held on every major financial proposal, according to Allen. The board only lost two referendums on issues they felt were in the best interests of the town. He added, unlike Marco Island, no one ever sued the local government.
Allen said the citizens of Marco Island do not have “good” government. The candidate says he wants to change that.
One change Allen wants to make, if elected, is to give citizens free and open access to city officials and councilors.
Allen claims the citizens of Marco Island have been denied the opportunity to play a role in the future of the island. He said major projects, other than the referendum to purchase the Glon property, now called Veterans Community Park, have been “rammed down” the throats of residents without a vote.
City officials are not interested in getting input from the citizens, according to Allen, and some have stated so publicly.
“In fact, the City Council can be seen on videotape discussing how to limit or cut off citizen input at council meetings,” he said.
“Good government is government of, by and for the people. A concept that is supported by the greatest document ever conceived by man — the Constitution of the United States of America.”
Allen said there are many examples of an “arrogance of power” by Marco Island City Manager Bill Moss and some of the councilmembers.
“The recent motion orchestrated by the city manager and passed by four members of the council is symptomatic of the arrogance of power practiced by this non-representative government,” he said. “The city attorney was directed to draft an ordinance to move the March 2008 election back to November 2008, thus self-extending the councilor’s terms of office by eight months.”
Allen said the fact that the council even considered the motion was like throwing a bucket of sand in the faces of the citizens and voters.
“These councilors were elected by the voters of Marco Island for four year terms, not four years and eight month terms,” he said.
The candidate added the councilors do not have the moral right to extend their terms without the approval of the voters.
“We live in the United States of America — not Venezuela,” he said.
Allen cited other examples that he claims were abuses of power and bad government.
After Marco Island voters approved the purchase of the Glon property for a park, Allen said Moss and Director of Public Works Rony Joel decided on their own to use the site for “a contaminated construction dump that has inconvenienced and tormented hundreds of Marco’s citizens for years.”
Allen recalled a statement made by Tucker during a city council meeting last year. The councilor said he had photographic evidence of citizens planting pieces of asbestos concrete pipe on the Glon property. Allen noted that Tucker never produced any pictures and didn’t admit his statement was a hoax until five months later. Allen said Moss supported Tucker’s claim during that time.
“Does it bother you that once the hoax was exposed, neither the councilman or the city manager apologized to the public for their transgressions and violation of the public’s trust?” Allen said.
Another example of the council’s arrogance of power and poor government, according to Allen, is the minutes of an executive session held where councilors decided to pursue Citizens Advocating Responsible Environmental Solutions (CARES), a Marco Island political action committee, for payment of legal expenses incurred by the city.
“Even more distressing during that same meeting was councilor Tucker’s discussion and advocacy of having private investigators prying into the backgrounds of those Marco citizens who disagree with the council’s actions,” Allen said.
The candidate also claims Moss discusses major projects and issues with a few “favored” councilmembers before council meetings. Allen added other “unfavored” councilors are left out of the loop and “blindsided” at the meetings because of not having the same information.
Allen referred to reports in the Marco Eagle as other examples of arrogance of power by Moss and some councilors.
An article in the May 25, 2007 issue of the Eagle revealed that councilors asked Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, to try to exempt Marco Island from any property tax reform that the state Legislature may pass. Saunders agreed to help but later told the Eagle he decided not to file an amendment exempting the city from any tax package.
An article in Tuesday’s Eagle revealed that a city official placed an invitation to bid notice on the Lamplighter and Sheffield sewer districts wastewater collection system expansion in a Sunday newspaper. The districts, which are included in the city’s Septic Tank Replacement Program (STRP), are not scheduled for construction until 2008.
Councilors Terri DiSciullo, Chuck Kiester and Ted Forcht said in the article that Moss should not have placed the notice because the council hasn’t decided whether or not to move up the construction schedule of the districts to this year from next.
Allen said there are many more examples of “misfeasance” by the island’s government.
“If you aren’t bothered by any of the above and are not interested about integrity in government, then you probably don’t want to vote for me,” he said. “Given the opportunity, I pledge to you that I will work diligently with my fellow councilors to insure this type of behavior is stopped and that those guilty of ethical transgressions will be disciplined or if necessary, terminated.”
Allen said the city rules with an “iron hand,” claims home rule if challenged by state laws, and imposes fees for expensive projects and services on the citizens suddenly and without reason. He added that, if the residents don’t pay, they are threatened with financial penalties and investigations by private investigators and the city’s police department.
Allen claims the city government has overspent taxpayer’s money. He pointed to the city’s need to borrow $20 million from Bank of America, another $20 million from the state of Florida, and lobbying Saunders to exempt Marco Island from state property tax reform as proof.
On specific issues, Allen would stop the STRP if elected, even though his home is serviced by the existing sewer system. He said the $120 million STRP is unnecessary economically, invalid scientifically and has brought the city to the brink of bankruptcy. If elected, Allen would try to recover as much of the money as possible that has already been spent on the project.
The candidate said he would support another controversial issue, the Marco Island Waterways and Boating Safety Ordinance, if the courts validated the law. A boater challenged the ordinance by violating one of its regulations and was arrested by the Marco Island Police Department. The defendant’s attorney has filed motions in Collier County Circuit Court declaring the ordinance unconstitutional. A decision is expected later this year.
However, “if it fails to pass the test in court, I will not sponsor or support a new ordinance,” Allen said.
“Fellow citizens, with your support we can break the mold and finally bring democracy and good government of, by and for the people to Marco Island.”
City Council candidates have Web sites
The first four candidates for City Council have Web sites for their campaigns.
Joe Batte’s site is www.votejoebatte.com.
Roger Hall’s site is www.voterogerhall.com.
Butch Neylon’s site is www.voteforbutch.com.
Kenneth Allen’s site is www.votekennethallen.com.