In the midst of a year pocked by vocal criticism of the Marco Island city staff, the city’s seven-member council is holding firm to its support of a city manager often blamed by residents for leading city projects astray.
With just one dissenting vote to raise City Manager Bill Moss’s salary six percent to $161,000, the council otherwise roundly praised his performance over the last year.
Moss, who has been with the city since its incorporation in 1997, is often the target of residents’ anger over implementation of the city’s Septic Tank Replacement Program. One political action committee was formed in 2006 to put the position of city manager up to a vote of confidence during municipal elections.
The political action committee, Preserve Our Paradise, drafted a referendum that would have allowed city residents to vote to oust the city manager if a majority were dissatisfied with his performance. The petition for the referendum was rejected by the City Council in August, following the city attorney’s recommendation that the petition lacked “legal sufficiency.”
Councilwoman Terri DiSciullo defended Moss to her fellow councilors, saying that he is often the fall guy for council directives.
“If four of us are in the majority and three are in the minority, the community sees that as him not listening to each of the councilmembers,” DiSciullo said. “The majority of the council is who he has to move forward with, and I believe he’s moving forward with what the majority wants to do.”
No members of the public addressed the councilors, most of whom said they gave the city manager high marks in every field except communications.
Out of a possible score of five on an optional evaluation sheet filled by some councilmembers, Councilman Rob Popoff said he gave Moss “predominantly fours and fives, with a three for communication.”
Like several of his fellow councilmembers, Popoff lauded Moss for hiring Lisa Douglass, the city’s first public information coordinator, who he said “fills the void” left by Moss’s own lack of public communication expertise.
The vote against raising Moss’s salary came from Councilman Chuck Kiester, one councilmember who stands against the city’s sewering program.
“The way I’ve seen this past year, everything that could go wrong with our city improvement projects has gone wrong,” Kiester said.
He listed off overdue project deadlines, the fiasco involving asbestos found in a city-owned vacant lot earlier in the year and the latest public uproar: allegations that naturally occurring hydrogen sulfide released from the ground during construction is harming residents’ health.
In response to those concerns, the city recently spent $58,000 to hire an environmental monitoring firm, which is currently measuring hydrogen sulfide levels in the city’s air.
“It seems like wherever we stick our shovel we find trouble,” Kiester said.
In the end, he said, Moss’s deficiencies stem from an over-willingness to speed up construction, add new projects and still monitor all of the city’s work at once.
“It just comes down to him being unwilling or unable to say, ‘No, I don’t have the staff,’ ” Kiester said.
After the meeting, Kiester declined to give a simple thumbs up or thumbs down for Moss’s performance.
“You have to judge based on the fact that my vote was ‘no’ for the raise of six percent,” Kiester said.