MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island’s City Council member Chuck Kiester recently asked Carol Glassman to step down from her position with the code compliance board. Now, City Council will discuss dismantling the code compliance board in favor of hiring a magistrate, at Monday’s meeting.
The city charter allows council members the liberty to choose and appoint those who best represent their position and board appointees are expected to mirror the philosophy and policies of their council appointers in all issues brought to their attention and up for vote, according to Kiester.
The councilman initially cited the reasons for his request was to appoint someone “more in sync with my policy of being more Island friendly when dealing with infractions.”
The Eagle caught up with Kiester who explained his position further.
“The best example of Ms. Glassman’s non representation of my views can be seen in the tape of the last code compliance board meeting. Two board members are vilifying the city staff about the change in approach in attempts to get compliance,” he said, who personally appointed Glassman in 2009.
When asked if he ever sat down with Glassman to discuss his feeling that she was in essence departing from his policies, Kiester admitted he had not formally sat down or otherwise contacted Glassman to explain his concerns about her positions.
“I think it came to a head when she voted along with two individuals of the board who I considered to be excessively punitive in their way of going about business. It became clear to me that this was not going to work. I could have spoken with her but I felt it would not have made any difference,” said Kiester.
Kiester feels he followed the board decisions made by Glassman — maybe not as closely as he should have — but hasn’t been happy with her or the board’s decisions since before he took office.
“The Dec. 6 City Council meeting agenda will address the question of whether we should have an attorney who would hear the petitions for issues and concerns regarding violations that arise from the staff,” said Kiester.
“This would be a person, rather than a board who would make the decisions on this qausi-judicial board for those issues. He would be the voice of the code compliance board. The whole matter should not be punitive.”
He stated that he is surprised that the charter allows folks to appeal the code board’s decisions to the City Council and that he believes those appeals should be referred to a court.
Kiester further stated his position that Glassman does not technically have the freedom to accept or reject his request for her resignation.
“Once I decide to make that decision according to the city bylaws, I have the right to end the relationship. I mean her no harm. I just have a difference of opinion about going about things,” he said.
Glassman said that she is as stunned today as she was when she first heard news of Kiester’s resignation request two weeks ago.
“I am not happy with this and would not treat anyone in the way I have been treated,” said Glassman, and believes that the two board members were not “vilifying” the staff in the board meeting, as Kiester mentioned. She said there has been “a trend in the past few months” that the positions of the board have been “watered down.”
“When we (the board) make a decision, it is supposed to hold. If people don’t agree, the ordinance says they have to take it to a circuit court. I don’t feel it’s worked that way on Marco. The two people who wanted to adjourn that day noted that we had two or three cases and we were being made to feel irrelevant.
“The other two members who voted to stay are relatively new members and I was made to feel irrelevant and that is why I voted with them to adjourn early,” she added.
The code compliance board has specific duties and sits as a quasi-judicial board with powers not granted to the city manager, the City Council or other boards, she explained.
For five years, Glassman said that she sat through every code board meeting as part of her former duties as a reporter for a local news publication. Her experience with city matters also included her attendance at City Council meetings.
“Kiester appointed me, and the other council members voted to approve me. If I don’t resign, it would have to go to the City Council and the decision would have to made from there,” she said.
The local government code enforcement boards states that “The members shall serve in accordance with ordinances of the local governing body and may be suspended and removed for cause as provided in such ordinances for removal of members of boards,” per the statute 162.05 (3) (f).
Glassman maintained her record of personal integrity and community involvement and said she only had letters of praise from Councilmen Kiester.
“My philosophy was not punitive; it has always been compliance — compliance over heavy fines. If I made one vote in favor of a fine at some point, no one ever mentioned it to me at the time. To me, it looks as if he (Kiester) doesn’t like the way some people voted, and if I voted in the same fashion he thinks I am a copy-cat voter,” said Glassman. “I am feeling a little beaten down for what he did.
“Many folks have asked ‘As a volunteer why do you have to endure that type of treatment?’ But there is one thing, I know. They want to get rid of the code board and hire a magistrate. Get rid of the seven volunteers and pay someone to come in and give an opinion. Well, that’s interesting,” she said.
The City Council will hold a public hearing on the issue of establishing a special magistrate for the code enforcement board on Monday. Read Friday’s Eagle on what that may mean for Marco Island.
Reach Jean Amodea at firstname.lastname@example.org.