Councilors in Moss’s new, old city react

Moss has 75 days to make transition from Marco

It took just three votes and six minutes for the Naples City Council to decide that Bill Moss is their man.

The Marco Island city manager was approved by a 6-1 vote to take up the same post in Naples, with attending council members lauding Moss for his professionalism and poise.

Meanwhile, Marco Island City Council members lamented the loss of the city’s only manager in 10 years of cityhood.

“It’s our loss,” said Marco Councilor Ted Forcht. “They’ve gained a great city manager.”

Forcht was one of a handful of Islanders that e-mailed the Naples council to commend his abilities Monday during interviews, calling him “principled” and “dedicated.”

“He’s been called the consummate professional so many times, it’s like a cliché,” said Marco Island City Clerk Laura Litzan. “But that’s exactly what he is.”

Litzan, like Moss, was hired at the city’s creation. She and Moss started work the same day nearly 10 years ago.

“We’re definitely going to miss him,” she added.

Marco Island City Manager Bill Moss speaks to members of the media following the 6-1 vote by the Naples City Council on Tuesday to hire him as the new Naples city Manager. Naples Councilman Bill Willkomm, who cast the dissenting vote, said he had his eye on a candidate with an outside perspective, capable of analyzing Naples' needs with fresh eyes.

Photo by LESLIE WILLIAMS HALE, Eagle staff // Buy this photo

Marco Island City Manager Bill Moss speaks to members of the media following the 6-1 vote by the Naples City Council on Tuesday to hire him as the new Naples city Manager. Naples Councilman Bill Willkomm, who cast the dissenting vote, said he had his eye on a candidate with an outside perspective, capable of analyzing Naples' needs with fresh eyes.

While much of the Marco council expressed the same feelings of dismay, reactions were mixed with a healthy dose of realism.

“I’m not surprised,” said Marco Council Chair Mike Minozzi. “I had no doubt in my mind that they would accept him. They know what kind of individual he is and what he’s able to do. He was a tremendous captain of our ship.”

Moss will leave behind much ongoing controversy, particularly over island construction and the city’s Septic Tank Replacement Program. He was pinpointed as the mastermind of the controversial $100 million program to replace the island’s septic tanks with an expanded sewer system.

“Mr. Moss was a scapegoat on the City of Marco Island,” said Marco Councilor Rob Popoff. “I’m sorry he has to go. He took a lot of guff from people and it was based on council direction and not Mr. Moss.”

Many people point to the inception of the sewer program as the point where opinion of Moss started to sour.

“I will say this much,” said resident Russ Colombo. “Marco Island was extremely fortunate to have found and employed Bill Moss at the first three years of our cityhood. For the first three years, I feel that we could not have done better than Bill Moss. Judging from the reaction of the general population, I feel that mostly after 2000, he seemed to have outworn both his welcome and his usefulness for Marco Island.”

Finalist Bill Moss, left, is congratulated by city council member Gary Price after Moss was named the Naples city manager in 2007.

Daily News

Finalist Bill Moss, left, is congratulated by city council member Gary Price after Moss was named the Naples city manager in 2007.

Colombo, chair of political action committee Preserve Our Paradise, headed up a failed effort earlier this year to subject Marco’s city managers to a vote of confidence every four years. By popular vote, the referendum would have allowed voters to remove the city manager for doing an unsatisfactory job.

“When you get into politics, every time you do something, somebody doesn’t like it,” said Naples Councilman Bill MacIlvaine. “From what we gathered, it was a minority of people who were very unhappy about switching from septic to sewers, which I think is inevitable. I think we paid the most attention to how he conducted himself.”

Like his fellow council members, MacIlvaine said the controversies on Marco Island were a consideration in their decision, but simply didn’t carry the weight of Moss’s excellent references, impressive city building history and strong interviews.

To Naples Councilman John Sorey, Moss’s handling of the controversy worked in favor of his hiring. He said, “The factors that made him favorable for the job were that, a. he was local and understood Naples problems, b. he was very well qualified with a number of years of management under his belt, and c. he came from a very diversified city where 50 percent of the people wanted sewers and 50 percent wanted septic.” He added, “To me that was a very difficult situation and he handled that great.”

Sorey also said the six candidates who made it to final interviews in Naples were all equally qualified, making the big decision all the more difficult.

“What turned the corner on me was him being local and him handling diversity,” he explained.

Naples Mayor Bill Barnett said it was one of the hardest decisions he has ever had to make during his tenure.

“He has really weathered a storm on Marco,” he said. “Obviously the sewer debate —he has really been in the middle of that. His references were terrific.”

Barnett pointed to the email he received from Forcht. The Marco Councilor was elected as an anti-sewer candidate, but Barnett said Forcht’s appraisal of Moss spoke volumes.

“That’s really a credit to Bill,” Barnett said. “Here you’re talking about someone who was on the opposite side giving him a recommendation.”

Just after the meeting, and once an elated Bill Moss delivered a few comments to the press, Barnett and Moss moved to City Hall to work on the details of Moss’s new contract.

An initial contract drafted Wednesday by Barnett’s office included a salary of $177,000 for Moss.

Moss’s salary on Marco Island, according to the contract revised in September, is $161,000, with an additional 38 percent “in lieu of, and as an alternative to, any and all benefits relating to deferred compensation, health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance and retirement contributions.”

The Naples position was advertised at an annual salary of $150,000 to $200,000. Outgoing Naples City Manager Bob Lee was making $154,529. His last day was Oct. 19.

Moss’s current contract with the City of Marco Island also provides that he give written notice of least 75 calendar days, unless waived by council.

Moss said he would like to work on acquainting himself with Naples in the meantime, which he expects will make for a heavy workload.

“Really, what I hope is I can make a transition into the position,” he added.

If Moss does finish out the next 75 days, as his contract stipulates, he would be vacating his office just three weeks before Marco Island’s City Council elections in January. The elections may be pivotal for the island, as four of the declared candidates have promised to stop the seven-year sewering program, which is now wrapping up its third year.

“I think I would rather have left at a period that was a little more settled,” said Moss. “The timing, I wish, was better. But it is what it is.”

He added that he had to strike while the iron was hot. Four years ago, when the same position was open, he said, the time just was not right.

“Obviously, for this kind of thing, the timing is never good,” said Minozzi who added that he thinks Marco Island would be best served by hiring an interim city manager while the city searches for Moss’s replacement.

Minozzi said he expects that discussion to take place at Monday’s special-called City Council meeting.

City leaders expect it to be quite a task, replacing the man who has been at the helm for as long as the city has stood.

“I think it’ll be difficult to find someone with his qualifications in terms of his extensive background and abilities,” said Marco Councilor Bill Trotter. “I think we need to get started as soon as possible. Certainly, we have a lot of important programs that are in progress and to a degree we need to just keep them going in a positive direction.”

He added that he fears recent controversy will keep some qualified candidates away from the island.

“I hope qualified people will still come to Marco, and won’t be deterred by the POP petition trying to make the position elected,” Trotter said. “That’s not something city managers are used to, being in an elected position, so I hope it won’t deter candidates.”

Colombo balked at the suggestion that quality candidates would be driven away by that possibility.

“That was one of the arguments when POP first proposed the amendment,” he said. “I always said we didn’t want anyone in the position that would not be willing to be accountable to the people.”

Though he said he believes the negativity on the island is dissipating, Popoff said it would take a strong job candidate to step into Moss’s shoes.

“We’re only going to get candidates that are willing to put up with that type of contentiousness,” he said. “Anyone that’s willing to step up to the plate and take that is going to have to be a very strong person.”

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

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Comments » 16

tptcolumbusway writes:

No worries, smart people read the landscape and the issues through the media before they interview. Anyone willing to come here to interview will not worry about falling prey to a hostile council. You could make an argument that the current council should let the incoming council handle the search. That would make the candidates more comfortable. That would also make sense, so it probably will not happen.

EdFoster writes:

"Four years ago, when the same position was open, he (Moss) said, the time just was not right." Hmm! Four years ago, the STRP hadn't been started and he was riding high, getting paid a bundle with bonuses to boot. Now, the bonuses are a thing of the past, the raises are token, and he's witnessed more than a thousand people signing petitions (TWICE!) in favor of a referendum that would submit the City Manager to a vote of confidence from the people every 4 years. Four years ago, the council ate from his hand. Now he has a new council coming in that just might not be so easy to deal with as Minozzi and crew. Yup! I can understand why he thinks now is the time to get out of Dodge.

Ed Foster

waterday writes:

you said it very well Ed- I hope the Naples Council is use to playing puppets. Good Luck Naples Council. Marco has just rid itself of the MAIN problem. Our wonderful City Manager. Hope we are more careful with the next.

rcbauburn writes:

The other reason Mr Moss knows it's time to leave Marco is that he as CM and our current council have bankrupted our city. The simple answer in their minds was to raise rates on electric, sewer, and water to squeeze more out of the citizens.
They also have used up our reserves and have borrowed money that will be hard if not impossible to pay back. It's no wonder he wants to get out of town before the next council is sworn in. They will have their hands full.
Bob Brown

lauralbi1 writes:

Bob: Just for educational purposes and for all of our information, I suggest you investigate what the majority of cities in Florida are doing as a result of the recently passed action by the State Legislature proposing reducing Property Taxes. I think you will find that many of them already had in place Special Assessments Districts and Utility Taxes that t5hey are raising up to make up for losses in revenue. Marco Island is no different. We will have aditional taxes from other sources. The budgets have been passed in the past and the Island is looking great. The average age on the Island is going down and the number of families is going up. This requires additional infrastructure and much of the infrastructure that was in place needed updating. You have not been here that long, but Collier Blvd was difficult to navigate after heavy rains and impossible to travel on after a hurricane or the effects of one. The standing water was a health hazard and attracted mosquitoes. There are many other things that have taken place over the years that were needed.
Anyway, check with other cities and you will find we are no different than any of them as far as taxes are concerned. In fact, we are the only city in Florida with a 3% spending cap and there is only one other city with a cap and thet is the City of Palms which has a 10% cap.
Ed Issler

tptcolumbusway writes:

Most are glad he is gone irrespective of his motivations. I agree it does seem he fleeced the city listening to Joel and his sky is falling scenario and sold it to the city council. The Council believed him and went for the ride. Now "Mighty Moss" is off to fight fecal matter in another city leaving a disaster in the rear view mirror. Nevertheless, Marco is done with him and better without him. We will recover with higher taxes than we should have to pay. Hence Paradise will be a bit more expensive.

lauralbi1 writes:

Mr. Colombo: Please let everyone know your qualifications and background that would conceivably make you qualified to judge the performance of a City Manager. You and your fellow "POPpers" would not know a good City Maanger if he or she was staring you in the face. What is really IRONIC is that Mr. Moss' performance as a City Manager was, in fact, exemplified by how he was able to perform his job in the face of uninformed, ignorant (as far as his job duties is concerned) citizens such as yourself and your followers. What you fail to acknowledge is that a majority of the Marco Island voters elected the Council that serves right now. And even after the next election, no matter who wins, you and your followers may still represent a minority. It remains to be seen. So all of your criticism is certainly welcome in a Democracy, but has to be put into perspective as having been the voice of a minority, as was so elecquently stated by the Naples City Council.
Whoever is elected to the new Council has a daunting task. All of us are in for a big let down.
I suggest you do some research on other Florida cities and look at their population and size and compare their City Staff and budgets to Marco Island. I have done this already and the results are shocking. Maybe it will open your eyes, if you can even "Handle The Truth". Start with naples and Venice and go from there. I have done this already.
Ed Issler

EdFoster writes:

Issler:

You're off your meds again!

"tptcolumbusway" is NOT Russ Colombo so your nonsense above is misdirected. Another example of your inability to do any "research" whatsoever. I've never met a person who has a 100% batting average of being WRONG! Someone should send your name into the Guiness Book of Records.

And as for your response to Bob Brown: has it occurred to you that Marco has a cap on spending (not on taxes) precisely because, without it, the citizens did not want to incorporate. They were afraid of out-of-control spending so they capped it. As a result, we had a cash surplus which has been blown by Moss and the past two councils in their ungodly rush to sewer the world before a new council could be elected to stop the madness.

Each year, the council took great pride in "reducing the tax rate." Sounds great but it's totally meaningless. As long as property values were rising (as they were until recently), it made no sense not to reduce the tax rate; the cap prevented the city from spending the money they already were raking in. So they "borrowed" against the kitty and when that ran out they "borrowed" from the bank. And now we're in the bottom of a hole (literally and figuratively) and, as the old adage goes: if you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, stop digging! (Literally and figuratively.)

Ed Foster

jwputnam writes:

Dear Ed,

Somehow you keep forgetting to give us the names of those officials in the government who have assured you that Marco will be forced to install sewers someday. When you do, I will be so impressed with your accuracy in reporting that I will not be able to keep myself from conducting the Issler directed research above.

Ed, please run for council. Please! We need someone as analytical as you seem to be in your relentless search for the truth.

Oh and PS. Out of curiousity, do you think that our friend Mr. Moss would have left Marco Island if he felt that he truly had the support of you and your friends in your assumed majority? Just curious.

tptcolumbusway writes:

Thank you Mr. Foster for clearing that up for Mr. Issler, although, I admire Mr. Columbo very much, I am not him. Mr. Issler, my name is Tom Tierney. I am in the book if you feel like a live civil debate. I don't think you can have a civil debate with all of the mud you sling. I would be an excellent person to pick a city manager, I have owned an international executive search firm for 20 years.

jwputnam writes:

It just amazes me when I read comments about how brilliant a city manager Bill Moss was. Bill Moss engineered the purchase of a totally collapsed water and sewer system. He never did proper due diligence or else he must have chosen to ignore the results. He then proceeded to shove a $138,000,000 sewer project down the throats of a small percentage of the private citizens on a tiny island without EVER having studied the need for it or any reasonable alternatives. This is brilliance? I don't think so.

The STRP had two clear objectives: 1. Cover up a disasterous purchase 2. Place the burden of the replacement on the backs of a minority of "wealthy" residents so as not to punish the powerful island builders, realtors and businessmen.

No study was ever needed or desired. The criminals had their plan.

Good luck to Naples. You should have kept your eyes open. Define "sociopath" for me.

happy6 writes:

hey issler...ou always want someone else to "investigate"....do you ever do your own investigating before you put your mouth in gear?

lauralbi1 writes:

Gee, I guess if you guys could read you would know that I was addressing Mr. Colombo's comments in the article itself and you would know that I have already published the results of Venice and Naples in a letter to the editor in the Sun Times. But it would be so much more meaningful if you did the research yourself. Or is that too much work or too difficult for you, Van ???

waterday writes:

We have a council that is seated that several of the individuals when they ran for those seats, did not have anyone running against them! they were simply appointed seats, not elected. The new council is now elected and more people are running and getting involved as we are now having to sort out the mess from a council that did exactly what the City Manager told them to do. PUPPETS. We did not elect some of the individuals that are still holding seats, please go back and search your records if you do not believe this. No one was running against, or for the seats of the first Council. Also in regards to Water standing before our great city began work, I have never seen in my 25 years on this island much standing water, after the Hurricane Andrew, there was NO STANDING WATER! this is false, there may have been a little water on Collier from time to time, but nothing that was not gone in a few hours time after a heavy rain. Also the infrastructure of this island is worse, look around at the mess created by our city and the traffic nightmares, and workers everywhere. Our Island does not look beautiful nor does it look better. It may in the end but at the moment it is an eyesore for any vacationer. Ed, why don't you move to Venice and take your minority voice (that you insist is a majority with you) We do not need a utility tax and the majority of us our sick and tired of being nickel and dimed to death so that the City can generate more money and debt and create more headaches. If we are going to keep generating bills, I say that we give some of the young kids on the island a Teen Center that gets always put under the rug, nothing is ever done for the young families that have arrived. We must build more roads and sewer as quick as possible and do all the really important things first! great thinking Ed.

rcbauburn writes:

Ed Issler
Just so we're clear, I have been coming to Marco since 1992, but I didn't build my home until 2000. I have been here to see all of the above. The issues we face today unfortunately are those that have been forced on us by the last couple of city councils. Had they been more fiscally responsible, we would not be in this mess right now. Whether you believe in sewering the island or not, it was done wrong and any $135,000,000 project should have had much more input from the residents and those residents should have had the opportunity to vote on spending that kind of money...........
Bob Brown

ILOVEMARCO writes:

Wow. I guess it's not surprising that the same dingbats are still making up their own science about septic tanks in low lying barrier islands, and ignoring the warnings from state DEP that should pollution levels rise to unacceptable levels, the agency has the authority to come in and force a much more expensive waterway cleanup as well as an also more expensive than $130 million sewer installation progra. Just keep ignoring it and we'll be able to hear your whining when it happens. Oh and stop drinking some of the state's finest quality municipal water produced by the now city-owned water plants, the plant you say the city should have left to the hands of incompetent private operators. The very good water you wash your very stinky selves with is pristine because people like Bill Moss took the helm and got it away from private owners. Had they not returned the power of controlling our precious water to a publicly run government, you would be blaming the city and Moss for not having the brains to do the right thing and buy the system so it can be repaired, restored and expanded to meet the ever growing demand you very people put on the system. You're a bunch of ignorant hypocrites. I;'d like to see your bank account balances. You act so poor, but you live in multi-million dollar houses on Marco Island. If you couldn't afford to live here, you'd leave. If you're so blasteded broke from paying for a simple sewer installation, why are you still here? No one believes you anyway. That's why you continue to lose elections, lawsuits and court challenges. You're a bunch of phonies.

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