Marco Island City Council fires City Manager Steve Thompson

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— The Marco Island City Council voted to fire City Manager Steve Thompson on Monday.

“Obviously, I wish I had been more successful here, but this is a very difficult community by anyone’s standards,” said Thompson. “Council plays to that negativity and it’s difficult to overcome that.”

Standing by his wife, Thompson said he would think about whether to request a public hearing to appeal council’s decision within the next five days.

Former City Council Chairman Rob Popoff, who heard the news via a text message from the meeting, said he’d like to be there to speak.

Many residents, including Marco Island Taxpayers’ Association President Fay Biles, city watchdog Bill McMullan, Bob Brown and Bill Flasche among others, spoke in favor of ousting Thompson on Monday. Popoff said more people would have spoken in Thompson’s defense if they knew it was going to be discussed.

“I’m stunned. I really, really, really didn’t want to be in politics anymore, but this is the kind of thing ... I would have run for (council) again because it’s just unjust,” Popoff said.

There was no transparency in the decision to terminate Thompson’s contract within the next 30 days because it was not on the agenda in time for an advertised public notice, Popoff said.

“I have to question the motives,” he said. “This is not an emergency. This is not open government.”

The move came after a decision by new City Council Chairman Frank Recker to bring Thompson’s performance up for discussion. After a long pause among council members, Councilman Chuck Kiester seconded Recker’s motion to discuss it.

Then one-by-one, each council member shared their take with four of the seven council members agreeing with Recker that Thompson lacked transparency and openness, among other acts that lacked judgment on his part. The other three members, Wayne Waldack, Bill Trotter and Jerry Gibson, said they should take more time to review Thompson in a formal process.

Kiester, along with new council members Larry Magel and Joe Batte agreed with Recker.

Thompson said he wasn’t that surprised given two new members on council. Moreover, there is a new chairman, who had called for Thompson’s termination previously.

“If I was afraid of being fired, I wouldn’t have become a city manager,” said Thompson, who was hired in May 2008.

Recker first called for the dismissal of Thompson about six months after he was hired. At that time, he cited Thompson’s poor decision not to share a “transition report” written by then-interim-City Manager Dana Souza describing financial irregularities and transparency problems in the city.

Souza used the report to go after three employees, who were later cleared by a forensic audit, Thompson said.

It was a roller coaster ride for Thompson. About a year ago, he was getting rave reviews from council.

Recker cited several reasons in calling for Thompson’s termination:

■ Thompson did not share requests for information regarding alleged mishandling of the toxic substance asbestos in 2006 and 2007.

■ The annual audit was completed past deadline and over budget without communication to the city’s audit advisory committee.

■ Thompson contracted former City Finance Director Bill Harrison after his constructive discharge, which came with paying $25,000 in severance to Harrison in fall 2008. Harrison then worked for the city at a rate of $100 per hour, earning about $100,000 in 2009, close to his previous salary.

■ The Bradenton-based law firm Lewis, Longman and Walker was paid to assist with the defense against the EPA, without informing city council’s contracted counsel or informing council, Recker said.

■ Department heads weren’t properly managed.

Thompson stood up for his department directors.

“You’re better off improving than replacing (an employee) in most of these cases and that was my goal,” Thompson said.

The city will pay Thompson about $175,000 in severance. Other expenses will likely include a nationwide search at about $50,000, an interim city manager with a temporary salary to likely mirror Thompson’s and the salary for a new, long-term city manager.

While Recker said it was his “fiduciary responsibility” to fire Thompson, Popoff said it may be the opposite.

“This is financially irresponsible. Now we'll have to pay for his golden parachute. He hasn't done anything grievous enough,” Popoff said.

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Comments » 52

ajm3s writes:

I will take Magel's analysis over Popoff's. In effect, the boss (City Council) told the employee (City Manager) that you cannot withhold information for my evaluation.

In the end, Mr. Popoff is not on the Council and his opinions are his and his alone. The decisions are of those on the Council and I have to say, let us begin to separate away from Mr. Moss's influence and truly build a city that is of the people as represented by the City Council.

ed34145 writes:

Hmm...Magel and Batte have been on council for how long???? They've been in office all of 35 days; yet they feel qualified to make a non transparent decision that will cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay to Mr. Thompson, costs for a nationwide search, interview process, etc. Way to go! Can't wait for the next four years of their terms.

CW writes:

I agree ed34145, Magel and Batte didn't even have a chance to manage Thompson. How are they qualified to judge him at this point! “Double talking politicians.” They both ran their campaigns claiming they were fiscal conservatives yet they fire the City Manager at a cost of a couple hundred thousand dollars. This would have never happened if Forcht and Popoff were still councilors, they were voices of reason and kept Recker from being reckless!

GorgonZola writes:

Hello Sunshine! It seemed to all who observed, that this hijacking was pre-ordained before the meeting. Hard to swallow, that 4 people, without warning, were immediately able to side with Recker, while 3 others asked for time to make a 'thoughtful' decision.
After this humiliating attack, Thompson is fortunate to close the door on a community that vocally opposed him in such a way. Why would he want to be here? Although Trotter may not get his news from the media, enough others obviously knew what was afoot as the city hall meeting room was quite full and speakers had prepared speeches with them. Council may have learned in the past to leave no trace in e-mail, but not everyone is naive. Makes us wonder who is working the marionettes from behind the curtains, and surely the next city manager will be experienced, have a lot of education, and not bring a history of being relieved of positions (fired) with him.

Para_Rescue_38th writes:

If the rumors are true Dana Souza will be brought back as city manager. I hope someone gets to the bottom of this and looks for possible Sunshine violations. Willing to bet there are a lot of emails between Recker, Arceri and Discuillo scheming against Mr. Thompson. Why did this need to be done with such haste? Looks like Magel and Recker are official CAVEDWELLERS! Hmmmmm…….

OldMarcoMan writes:

Guess I lost two votes,,, can we have a do-over election?

marcosandflea writes:

in response to Para_Rescue_38th:

If the rumors are true Dana Souza will be brought back as city manager. I hope someone gets to the bottom of this and looks for possible Sunshine violations. Willing to bet there are a lot of emails between Recker, Arceri and Discuillo scheming against Mr. Thompson. Why did this need to be done with such haste? Looks like Magel and Recker are official CAVEDWELLERS! Hmmmmm…….

hi lisa,

you next??

freedomofspeech1 writes:

in response to Para_Rescue_38th:

If the rumors are true Dana Souza will be brought back as city manager. I hope someone gets to the bottom of this and looks for possible Sunshine violations. Willing to bet there are a lot of emails between Recker, Arceri and Discuillo scheming against Mr. Thompson. Why did this need to be done with such haste? Looks like Magel and Recker are official CAVEDWELLERS! Hmmmmm…….

while i liked dana, last time i looked he didnt have the qualifications to be a city manager....unless he;s been taking night classes...

OldMarcoMan writes:

I thought that was why Recker insisted on NOT hiring a search firm for the new manager and just letting Council handle it.

Welcome back Dana!

RayPray writes:

When the county ran things, everything was fine.

Then those fools voted to become a "city."

Since then, nothing...but squandered resources and ridiculous unneeded projects.

Could the 3 stooges have done a worse job?

Why not hire Stan Goober for City Manger? Could have rollicking fund-raisers and t-shirts every day

Fossil writes:

Sounds to me like we have a City Council that is willing to take responsiblity. The last few Councils liked letting the CIty Administration run things so they couldn't be held accountable. With all the money our city has spent on "must haves", $175,000 is a drop in the bucket. Why not get rid of Joel and Lisa to save even more money?

Fossil writes:

He reported only to those who supported him (like Popoff, Trotter, Gibson and Wallduck), he challenged the Council and basically told them to get out of his business as only HE knew what was best. All those Councilmembers who voted to rid our City of this fellow were very clear as to why: "lack of transparency and failure to keep them informed". They supported their vote with more then adequate evidence. This guy's management style was to conceal important information hindering their ability to govern, allowing him to make all decsions. All in all, they gave excellent reasons for a board of elected officials to take immediate action and fire him. His explanations in defense were full of admissions to wrongdoing and admitted mistakes. He doesn't even deny anything they accused him of. A reasonalbe person would find no need for an appeal when reading his own testimony, he made his bed. A City Council that looks out for the City it's residents and NOT the good old boys is what we appear to have here. It also looks like this City Council wants to govern and not let the administration govern for them. Popoff, you sound like a child that wasn't consulted about a family decision. Only the adults have the experience to make decisions of this kind. It appears that now the City of Marco Island will be governed by Adults for a change.

Concerned66 writes:

Someone should check out the fact that the city is not hiring anyone. Rumor has there are two new employees .

Sailor writes:

Magel brags constantly about his strong financial skills yet he votes to fire the city manager at a cost of $175k and then do a search for a new manager at a cost of $50k. What a hypocrite. At least I can say I didn’t vote for him, Ted Forcht should be sitting in that council seat.

CW writes:

Fossil, as usual you miss the point completely. This firing was done without any public notice. Maybe Thompson needed to go but where was the public input? This was obviously a behind the scenes deal put together by the syndicate as you call it only now you're applauding the type of behavior you've complained about in the past. make up your mind, are you for open government or not? If it had been transparent government, like Recker always talks about, it would have been properly advertised. Instead, they snuck it in through the back door. Recker wanted to fire Thompson two years ago after just 90 days of employment and was unsuccessful, now he got his way.

ajm3s writes:

in response to OldMarcoMan:

I thought that was why Recker insisted on NOT hiring a search firm for the new manager and just letting Council handle it.

Welcome back Dana!

If the rumor of Dana coming back is true, then does that constitute a 'do-over"

MarcoFacts writes:

Larry Magel, I want my vote back. You have proven that you will give in to the vocal minority which doesn't make you a leader.

ajm3s writes:

in response to CW:

I agree ed34145, Magel and Batte didn't even have a chance to manage Thompson. How are they qualified to judge him at this point! “Double talking politicians.” They both ran their campaigns claiming they were fiscal conservatives yet they fire the City Manager at a cost of a couple hundred thousand dollars. This would have never happened if Forcht and Popoff were still councilors, they were voices of reason and kept Recker from being reckless!

Your point has some validity, however, I was amazed at both Magel's and Batte's conviction in their remarks. My suspicion is that when they served on the budget and audit committees prior to becoming Councilors, they must have become disenchanted with Mr. Thompson's handling of certain items.

I hope for the best going forward.

ajm3s writes:

in response to Para_Rescue_38th:

If the rumors are true Dana Souza will be brought back as city manager. I hope someone gets to the bottom of this and looks for possible Sunshine violations. Willing to bet there are a lot of emails between Recker, Arceri and Discuillo scheming against Mr. Thompson. Why did this need to be done with such haste? Looks like Magel and Recker are official CAVEDWELLERS! Hmmmmm…….

I am confused, I thought Lisa Douglass controlled the emails and communications. Was that not the reason an employee of the month resigned shortly after Mr. Thompson took the helm.

Wasn't the coverup actually a need to control communications and IT so not as to embarrass the city. Isn't that how Mr. Souza uncovered what he percieved as budget misuse which led to his assessment that certain employees needed to be reviewed.

I realize this is Mr. Souza's perception, but I believe that is how it all started. Its all in the papers.

blogsmog writes:

Moss's hand was officialy extricated from Thompsons behind last night.
Thank You Batte, Keister, Magel and Recker.
Gibson and Trotter looked like deers in the headlights and Waldack was hitting on some skinny blonde.

ed34145 writes:

So, let's talk about Sunshine violations.....Seemingly out of the blue, with no prior notice, Recker has his 4 votes lined up????? You know his ego wouldn't let him bring this up unless he had his 4 votes...hmmmm....how did he know he had them????? Batte and Magel didn't run on a platform to fire the city manager...never mentioned that...only trying not to waste money....like the money they will now waste....

I thought this was the "Sunshine State".

marco97 writes:

Ed what happened last night was the same thing that happened when City hall was renamed after Tucker a few months ago. I did not hear you complain about that. Steve had been warned a couple of times before about keeping council informed, he failed and lost he job because of it.

stepuporshutup (Inactive) writes:

If Mr. Thompson was released for not doing the job he was hired for in the manner he was contracted to do it, then he did not fulfill his contract. Why are we paying him off? Who is responsible for giving this man a contract that pay's him off for being a failure? If he however fulfilled his contract then why are we getting rid of him? Just because Mr. Recker doesn't like the way Mr. Thompson does his job does not give him the right to dismiss him. Seems to me that Mr.Recker has a severe case of Glen Tucker Syndrome.

islandeyes writes:

I imagine Mr.P will throw his hat into the ring....perhaps this has been an idea for some time?

EdFoster writes:

Popoff, you are a hypocrite. You blame Recker for not announcing a discussion on whether to fire the City Manager and winning a vote to do so, suggesting that the vote was rigged. That is EXACTLY what you did when you permitted the council bartender to propose naming City Hall for an admitted liar and maligner of Marco citizens, a man who had done more to foster dissent on Marco Island and more harm to the island than any councilor before or since with the possible exception of John Arceri. You seconded the bartender's motion and forced it to an immediate vote after accepting prepared accolades from your cronies in the audience while demanding that the only citizen to comment factually and negatively on the motion return to his seat without finishing his objection. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Go drown in the sauce YOU created.

To those who say that Batte and Magel had no grounds to vote to fire the CM because they were elected to the council recently, I say: just when do you propose that they assume the duties and responsibilities they took on when they were sworn into office? After a year, two years, three years, the day before they're up for re-election? These are grown men who have lived on the island and know as much about Steve Thompson's antics, obfuscations, maneuvering and cover ups for Wee Willy's past sins to walk in and fire Thompson on day one!

And as for those crocodile tears about wasting money firing a CM: The CM blew your tax dollars giving a "constructive discharge" to Harrison (for which he did not qualify) and then hired him back as a consultant so he is making as much as he ever did while continuing to screw up the books so the auditors cannot complete their job. In light of Thompson's errors, he deserved to be fired months if not years ago. How can you keep a CM who exceeds his spending authority and keeps half the council in the dark?

I like Dana Souza. He did a lot for the city when he served as parks and rec director the position he fills now in Greenville, SC. However, his experience as a parks and rec director does not necessarily qualify him to be CM. But he does have guts and seems to be a far more honest human being than the last two jokers that held the post on Marco. That may balance his lack of experience and make him the finest CM Marco has ever had. Nonetheless, I submit that the council has a duty to cast a wider net and interview other candidates before deciding on Dana just because he is a known quantity.

Ed Foster

dc5799 writes:

Where is Issler?

JohninMarco writes:

in response to ed34145:

So, let's talk about Sunshine violations.....Seemingly out of the blue, with no prior notice, Recker has his 4 votes lined up????? You know his ego wouldn't let him bring this up unless he had his 4 votes...hmmmm....how did he know he had them????? Batte and Magel didn't run on a platform to fire the city manager...never mentioned that...only trying not to waste money....like the money they will now waste....

I thought this was the "Sunshine State".

Ed you have not got a clue. This incident came to ahead this week when city staff OPENLY questioned Thompson's lack of leadership. For councilmen to say they were blindsided by this is not true. Almost all city employees saw this coming Friday. By one means or another all the council knew this was going to happen. Unless you lived in a bubble, most residents knew it too. Ask an city employee as well as those who spoke up for Thompson, nice guy by stated nothing about his leadership ability. He was known for his inability to make decisions.

OldMarcoMan writes:

We have the best City Council money can buy,

solmisc writes:

just the fact I saw so many Celebrate Marco members in the audience last night leads me to believe they were trying to intimidate the vote against Thompson and also the Chamber was there in full force, says alot .
You guys did the right thing, men with conscience have to do the right thing, its in there DNA.
Just be careful when you rehire, Moss hand picked this Tompdson fella and we no what happened there. maybe you should get someone with no ties to marco iland?

Stilllaughing writes:

in response to dc5799:

Where is Issler?

I was kind of wondering that too. We need the court jester to give us his "facts" on these complicated issues so we lowly CAVE dwellers can be enlightened.

blogsmog writes:

in response to Para_Rescue_38th:

If the rumors are true Dana Souza will be brought back as city manager. I hope someone gets to the bottom of this and looks for possible Sunshine violations. Willing to bet there are a lot of emails between Recker, Arceri and Discuillo scheming against Mr. Thompson. Why did this need to be done with such haste? Looks like Magel and Recker are official CAVEDWELLERS! Hmmmmm…….

its more comfortable in a cave than it is in a prison cell

marcosandflea writes:

Now they need to take a look at Lisa Douglas.

Montel writes:

marcosandflea, aka town clown, John Putnam. What do you have against Lisa Douglas?

Foster, you and Putnam need social etiquette rehab. You are both socially retarded.

The Tucker naming was on the agenda while the dismissal of Thompson was not...big difference Foster.

ejburger writes:

It seems clear that this whole charade is about bringing Souza back. Dana Souza is not qualified to be city mgr. Recker has made the anti-city people (about 2% of the Marco population and mostly snowbirds) happy, something he should be very proud of. One thing is for certain, he plays to the negative minority and has lost a lot of supporters and votes by his actions. Magel has proven to not be the leader he claimed he was, leaders lead, they don't follow. Batte also followed, very disappointing.

Avenger writes:

You are wrong, Monte. The 4 Jan 2010 agenda lists the following item under business: “(C) DISCUSSION – Naming of City Facilities or Rooms.” No mention of naming city hall after Tucker in there!

Given that Popoff presided over that “naming” charade, I find his expressions of dismay in this article quite disingenuous. And according to Thompson’s rebuttal last night, he did inform the previous CC chair (Popoff) about the EPA inquires, and was told NOT to tell the rest of council. Not very open or transparent of Popoff.

EdFoster writes:

Monte,

Avenger beat me to it. Naming City Hall after your lying friend was NOT on the agenda in January. The agenda item was a discussion of whether to name buildings, rooms, etc. after anyone, and if so, to discuss groundrules for doing so. As planned (and don't try to convince me you weren't aware of it in advance), Gibson jumped the gun and Popover was primed to second the illegal motion and push it through because no one had the guts to speak ill of the dead. If not speaking ill of the dead is your criteria for proper behavior, I assume you praise Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and a host of other famous people.

Ed Foster

blogsmog writes:

Foster shoots - HE SCORES!!
Ed, do you enjoy making these syndicate dopes look bad?

GorgonZola writes:

Oh my, when are the Dana promoters going to wake up and smell the cappuccino? Dana did a great job in the position for which he was hired: Parks & Recreation. However, do you really think he came up with that critique of city staff all by himself? If you did, you're delusional. If you think ex-councilor (who can't keep her fingers out of Marco politics and envisions herself as some kind of 'mayor') diSciullo fed him the information, you get 5 stars. The fellow simply is not qualified to sit as a city manager in any way, shape, or form. That goes for everyone in city hall at the moment, from the also-deluded city clerk (whose mirror, mirror on the wall needs cleaning) to some of the aspiring directors whose butts barely missed the slings and arrows that Thompson took for them last night.
Now that the city is about to donate $175,000 to Mr. Thompson as a parting gift, no wonder the chairman is going to 'save a bundle' by appointing a search and hire committee. We can't wait to see the lucky ones who get appointed to that! We sure hope we don't recognize any of them -- especially the loonies who waste time pretending to be 'civic activists' as they repeatedly air private agendas.
We may never know if what was done was 'the right thing' or not, but THE WAY IN WHICH IT WAS DONE was demeaning. Mr. Thompson's rapid and thorough response was not the result of 5 minutes of research: no doubt he was made aware of the 4 votes against him and came prepared to reply to Bonaparte Recker.

ed34145 writes:

Solmisc _ obviously you don't know what you are talking about.

RobertGlaub writes:

I believe those of you who think Arceri was involved in this are mistaken. If he was, then his two puppets, Heckle and Jeckle, would have voted with the majority and it would have then been a 6-1 vote.

Also,the $175,000 doesn't compare to the more than quarter million dollars the previous council approved to move a lift station from Joel's backyard to the lot across the street from his property. Thus, increasing the value of it.

ginbudjim writes:

You folks on the island better get it together there before Obama appoints a Marco Czar for you.

GBR writes:

in response to Stilllaughing:

I was kind of wondering that too. We need the court jester to give us his "facts" on these complicated issues so we lowly CAVE dwellers can be enlightened.

I think he is having some respiratory problem. Probably went in for tests.

;-)

Brillo writes:

We are presently doing a DNA analysis of the court jesters lip marks on the plaque at City Hall. (Maybe it can tell us about his personal asbestos contamination) ;-)

Fossil writes:

For those of you that believe this was an ambush you are wrong. Recker has been trying to get rid of this guy for a year now. Batte has hardly ever missed a Council meeting and Magel has been complaining about Thompson since he took his seat on the Council. The meeting was full of people, many of them from the Chamber of Commerce some of Arceri's friends were also there. It is obvious that Thompson had received a heads up and prepared his defense. This was not an ambush, this was a Council making a correction. That is what Council members are elected to do, take out the trash. I knew that there were four votes on the Council as did anyone who has been watching or attending Council meetings. This was not an ambush it was effective governance. Long overdue I might add.

Brillo writes:

Fossil,
I could not agree with you more. I am just wondering to what degree Arceri was involved in this. What made Mr. Magel seem to bite the hand that fed him? I hope it is not a smoke screen for something else.

surfer1 writes:

I happened upon the council meeting last night as I was searching the internet for a vacation spot. The events of the meeting so intrigued me I visited the news sites. All of you are acting like children. Apparently there is no transparency on this site as all of you seem to know who it is writing comments. Recker had an agenda and he accomplished it. He can now be Geppetto to his Pinocchios. Recher was on city council when Thompson was hired and he agreed to the severence package. He also had it committed to memory last night. From what I saw, Recker wanted to get rid of this manager since the moment he figured out he wasn't going to be able to control him.
City council has some responsibility in this. Do they sit and wait for reports or are they proactively acting on behalf of the citizens that voted them in? Good luck to the Island -- be careful, what you wished for may be just what you get and to Thompson, you are probably better without them.

happy6 writes:

batte and magel are not idiots..they have observed this fiasco called marco govmt' and they decided it's what it is..a joke...the problems have been going on and these guys did not just suddenly discover there was a problem.
thompson is a joke..hired by arceri, issler,lazzarus and the rest,,,next we need to get rid of the finance mgr and lisa douglas who is a complete joke.
now...come on issler....make your ridiculous points....

renniep writes:

It certainly appears that some kind of agreement was made prior to this meeting and why was this not publicized to the general public in a more timely manner? It seems that Thompson was railroaded out without any ample time for the public to provide their input as to their perception about his performance. And, I for one, would have chosen to let him complete his contract (assume a 3 year contract was in place) and then to not renew it. I can't believe that we can waste a quarter of a million dollars in buying out his contract and then searching for a new city manager. And to think that any worthwhile City Manager would even consider coming here with the Council that we now have is a no-brainer.

Capt_Buzz writes:

You’ve all been duped – Arceri was one of the main architects’ of this whole thing while Recker and Magel were just willing worker bees. While you all relish in the unnecessary character assassination of Steve Thompson you are falling into the hands of the one you all hate the most. You are all a bunch of blind fools, blinded by the sight of a casualty. Thompsons quote says it all:

“this is a very difficult community by anyone’s standards,” said Thompson. “Council plays to that negativity and it’s difficult to overcome that.”

You are all so driven by hatred and drama! Recker and Magel played to the vocal minority but the victory goes to Arceri. Stay tuned…
.

Leroy writes:

The vocal minority have not won a victory JWP. John, how many alias' do you have? Thompson was on his way out and everyone knew it. The question is why do you claim a victory? It's bad for the whole island and our already tarnished reputation. You have a point about good ole Wayne but you're very wrong about Popoff and Gibson, if either one ran again they would be elected.

P.S.
John, stop mixing champagne with you meds; your behavior is already questionable!

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