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MARCO ISLAND — The City of Marco Island is taking another look at itself, and seeing how much of a facelift in its government structure is needed.
The Ad Hoc Charter Review Committee appointed by City Council members met Monday afternoon at the fire station on San Marco, and heard a wide variety of suggestions on how best to improve city government.
“This is a plum assignment,” said James Riviere, chairman of the charter committee. “It is a great honor to be given this responsibility.”
Councilman Chuck Kiester called for the committee to investigate moving to a “strong mayor” form of government, with the mayor having veto power unless overridden by a super-majority of council.
He said “it is over the top and unprofessional for the city manager to disparage the so-called ‘vocal minorities’ in commentaries to the press or other public forums.”
Councilman Ted Forcht also suggested a mayoral form of government, and two-year terms for councilors.
“With our wild west politics, we need someone who is answerable to the people.”
He suggested a pay raise for councilors, on a per-meeting rather than per-month basis.
Council Vice Chairman Frank Recker agreed a raise was appropriate, but not a matter for the charter. He likened the City Council to a board of directors, dealing with broad policy, but not getting involved in detailed operational or personnel matters. He suggested adding a provision requiring the city manager to promptly report any serious unethical misconduct on the part of employees to the council.
Council Chairman Bill Trotter agreed the council should not manage day to day, but should, he said, be more involved in budgeting and planning, and needed the authority to ask questions of city staff. He saw no need to change from a city manager to a mayoral system.
Trotter warned that increasing council pay would run the risk of people taking the job for money rather than public service. Monte Lazarus of the charter committee drew a laugh from the room by suggesting council follow the lead of the advisory boards and serve without pay.
Councilman Jerry Gibson noted that voters will have the final say on the charter, with committee recommendations going to the council, and then to the electorate.
After the councilors left, public comment was heard.
Joseph Perino made a plea for voting rights for second-home owners, a position also supported by Kiester. Harking back to the founding fathers, he inveighed against taxation without representation. Committee members Lazarus, Patterson, and Rush reacted skeptically.
“Yes, you can vote,” said Lazarus, “where you have your primary residence.”
Amadeo Petricca, member of the Marco Island Taxpayers Association board, said there must be a referendum before changing the spending cap. It is the only way, he said, to restrain politicians’ urge to spend.
Ray Paret also spoke in favor of referenda, and more direct citizen input into government.
“I’m getting old, I won’t be here much longer, but I don’t like what is happening to my city,” he said. “This is not a job for the City Council.”
Russ Colombo said there must be some accountability for the city manager, the most powerful job on the island, but opined that changes being suggested have more to do with relations with the current city manager, Steve Thompson, than with the underlying issues.
Committee members discussed legislative provisions of the charter, such as whether councilors should be barred from holding additional offices, and looked at how similar matters are handled in other Florida cities’ charters.
Lazarus suggested that, having heard from City Council members, the charter committee have nothing further to do with council until it submits its recommendations.
“We have to do what we believe is correct,” he said.
The next meeting of the charter committee is scheduled 2 p.m., April 6, in the fire station meeting room on San Marco Road.