MARCO ISLAND — The head hunt to replace Marco Island City Manager Steve Thompson begins.
City Council fired Thompson on Monday night citing that he provided incorrect and untimely information to council. Council is to select an interim city manager at a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. Friday.
Councilman Bill Trotter suggested two city department heads as options.
City Councilman Larry Magel is hesitant to select from within City Hall, but said he is still processing the decision.
“You take a group of equals and make one more equal than the others,” Magel said. “There can be some animosity when you go back to being equals.”
Trotter suggested Marco Island Fire Rescue Chief Mike Murphy as the longest serving department head.
City Finance Director Patricia Bliss, who began with the city in March 2009, was Trotter’s second suggestion. Bliss could be of particular assistance in the next three or four months of budgeting and tax-rate setting, he said.
Bliss and Murphy couldn’t be reached to comment on Tuesday.
Former City Councilman John Arceri said the history on Marco Island suggests a danger in selecting an in-house interim city manager.
Before Thompson was hired in May 2008, then parks and recreation director Dana Souza was selected as the interim city manager.
“The person that’s the acting manager builds up a relationship with council and is looked at as a threat by the new manager,” Arceri said. “Dana (Souza) and Steve (Thompson) didn’t hit it off.”
Souza resigned shortly after Thompson was hired.
Magel agreed that Souza, who was once considered for the manager’s position, despite not having the experience or education to fit the job description, would likely not be an appropriate choice for city manager.
He would prefer the interim to be a Marco Island resident, a non-city employee, someone with business experience and perhaps someone who has served on a city board. Magel didn’t offer any particular names as of Tuesday afternoon.
He seeks a person that shares his perspective that council should be informed on all matters of significance, not just policy-making issues, he said.
“Whoever it is needs to be a city manager with a good amount of business experience, not a bureaucratic, government guy,” Arceri said.
Chairman Frank Recker suggested the replacement city manager be recommended by a citizens’ advisory committee, rather than a head-hunting firm.
He, too, supported more of a business perspective than a career government official.
Rick Sinatra, of the Cleveland-based recruiting firm The Lear Group, said his firm could assist in Marco’s search for a new city manager at a price of about $30,000.
Thompson’s severance will cost about $175,000, which Arceri said is nothing compared to the increased liability the city could face if poor decision-making continued.
Sinatra said a citizens’ search committee could be challenging if not kept small in membership.
“If you’re not looking for a $200,000 per year guy, you might find someone more moldable,” said Sinatra, a frequent Marco Island visitor.
Some Islanders say Thompson shouldn’t have gone out the way he did.
“This was just a bomb that dropped,” said former Council Chairman Rob Popoff.
The Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce did not take a formal stance on whether Marco should retain Thompson, but the Chamber board agreed on Tuesday that council’s approach was not business-like.
“While it may have been within the letter of the law, this shotgun-style approach was not in the spirit of the law,” said Vip Grover, President of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce.
Thompson may request a public hearing to appeal council’s decision by Friday.
“There is a chance,” said Thompson on Tuesday afternoon. “The key issue is whether it seems the vote would change.”