Bonita councilman calls on city manager to resign due to ‘lack of candor’

— Bonita Springs City Council appears set to discuss whether City Manager Gary Price will continue his work with the city during its meeting April 7.

Councilman John Spear sent a letter March 5 to Mayor Ben Nelson citing concerns with Price. He asked Nelson to add to the council’s agenda a motion to either ask Price to resign or have him publicly reprimanded.

Five hours later, Price sent an e-mail back, copying all the council members and insinuating Spear had been wanting to call for his resignation for a long time.

“Really not surprised!” Price wrote in his reply. “I strongly suspected even before your election you would eventually find some reason to seek my dismissal.”

Spear did not respond to the accusation Tuesday and Price could not be reached for comment. Further, Spear would not elaborate on his concerns with Price.

“The letter speaks for itself and, in terms of discussion, it ought to be done in the city council meeting in fairness to the other six members of the city council and even in fairness to Gary,” Spear said.

In Spear’s letter, he accuses Price of “lack of candor” for failing to fulfill on multiple occasions a request he first made in late 2008 for information about parks and recreation construction projects.

The city budgeted $1.9 million in parks, recreation and community facilities projects in its capital improvement plan for the current fiscal year.

Spear also said Price had made a statement to him completely contradicting what was written on an agenda item Price had signed. Spear said Price told him he didn’t know of an exception to how $75,000 in impact fee funds could be used, even though Price had signed a document a week earlier that clearly explained the exception.

On Monday, City Finance Director Lisa Griggs Roberson said the city has $691,000 in outstanding impact fee revenues for parks and recreation projects, funds which must be spent in the next two years. The announcement came after city officials conducted a review similar to what Spear said he had been asking for. Council is expected to prioritize the projects at a later workshop.

Caught in the middle of the feud, Nelson immediately sent a letter to City Attorney Audrey Vance. He did not respond to Spear, which Spear told him not to do, because it would have been a violation of open meeting laws.

“I know this is apparently a little late in the game but my goal is for us to keep this discussion as orderly and professional as possible,” Nelson said. “Prior to this meeting, I will warn everyone involved that during this discussion, as Chairman of the meeting, I will not tolerate angry outbursts or personal attacks.”

The agenda for the meeting will be available around March 31. As such, what item will be on it is still up in the air. If Spear intends to pursue a removal of Price, the process outlined in the city charter is to have council first approve a motion to suspend him.

Ron Pure, a citizen active in city politics, said the meeting will more likely just show where each council member wants to lay blame for any problems currently facing the city.

“I think that it will be an interesting show and it will determine which of those on that council feel they need a scapegoat,” Pure said.

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