Incumbent City Council candidate questioned on legality of forum

Article Highlights

  • Kiester to open forum half hour early Thursday for all candidate petitions to be signed
  • Relatively new law may muzzle city officials on ballot amendments
  • Candidates: Larry Magel turns down Chuck Kiester's invite
City Council member Chuck Kiester, left talks with Bob Brown, Ad-hoc Utilities committee member during Larry Magel’s City Council candidate forum Friday night.

Glenn Walton, Special to the Eagle

City Council member Chuck Kiester, left talks with Bob Brown, Ad-hoc Utilities committee member during Larry Magel’s City Council candidate forum Friday night.

City Councilman Chuck Kiester

Eagle staff

City Councilman Chuck Kiester

— Holding one of several of his community forums with Marco residents Thursday evening, Councilman Chuck Kiester, one of three announced candidates for City Council, was turned down on his invite by an opposing candidate.

The legal questions by competing candidate Larry Magel didn’t change Kiester’s plan, in fact, the only change is to start a half an hour earlier than initially announced to give time for voters to sign petitions.

Kiester invited all candidates to have their petitions available to sign so as to be put on the ballot. He said it would make it easier for all to get the 131 required signatures by the end of the month, despite the possible hindrance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Candidate Larry Magel sent e-mails to city officials warning that Kiester’s use of the public facility for petition signing would be considered the spending of tax dollars on campaigning because city staff cleans up after the event.

Confirming his concerns to this reporter, Magel cited Florida statute: “No person shall make and no person shall solicit or knowingly accept any political contribution in a building owned by a government entity.’ ... I did not want the appearance of any possible impropriety associated with my petitions and campaign.”

Kiester said he “went through all the proper channels.”

He received approval from City Manager Steve Thompson and Alan Gabriel, the attorney from the Weiss-Serota lawfirm, which represents the city.

As to Magel’s reaction and declining of the invite, Kiester said: “I was disappointed.”

Councilman Ted Forcht, also running for reelection, did not see a problem with the invite.

“Marco politics is usually pretty tame, gentlemanly even, it’s the elected officials that chew each other up. I’m personally staying out of this one, but I like to run my own campaign and not get tangled in petty stuff like this.”

Initially, Forcht agreed to have his petition there, but he didn’t confirm as of press time whether the banter between Kiester and Magel urged him to change his plans.

Kiester said all petitions would be available at 6:30 p.m. if candidates and voters chose to participate.

The forum, which may include many topics of residents’ interest, will feature discussions on the charter amendments that voters will see on the ballots in January.

Governor Charlie Crist signed a bill into law on June 10 that “prohibits local government, or any person on the local government’s behalf, from spending money to advocate for the passage of or defeat of any issue, referendum or amendment going to a public vote.”

Kiester has freedom of speech, but on the other hand, he may not be able to advise his constituents for or against any of the charter amendments during the forum held in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 4

ed34145 writes:

Naples News 2/7/08: Judge finds Marco councilor guilty of Sunshine Law violation

a Collier County Judge ruled a Marco Island City Council member guilty of a non-criminal public records violation Thursday afternoon.

Councilman Chuck Kiester, 67, was ordered to pay the maximum $500 fine for deleting e-mails relating to city business from his home computer.

District Judge Mike Carr told the court Chuck Kiester had "made a mockery of the law"

OldMarcoMan writes:

I didnt know Chuck was 67.

fortl writes:

vote all of them out

OldMarcoMan writes:

Now thats just silly forti, only two of "them" are running for re-election, and those two are the only ones who wanted to lower your taxes.

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