NAPLES — A topic borne out of the acrimonious atmosphere that has beset the Collier County Commission in recent months is getting a closer look by the county’s top management.
County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow has sent County Manager Leo Ochs a proposal to limit county commissioners’ use of county staff time in the wake of complaints from some commissioners that county staff members have to spend too much time responding to Commissioner Georgia Hiller’s requests.
The two-pronged proposal puts no limits on some commissioner requests but requires that other requests be deemed as serving a public purpose and limits staff work on them to no more than 16 hours without approval by a majority of the County Commission.
Though the Collier commission meets Tuesday, this proposal isn’t on the agenda.
Klatzkow called the proposal a “rough, working draft intended for internal discussion purposes” and referred questions to Ochs.
Ochs couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
In the proposal, Klatzkow writes that it is “for the purposes of initiating a discussion” and says the 16-hour limit was “simply set for the board’s discussion purposes.”
Hiller and Commissioner Tom Henning objected, saying state law that outlines county manager powers prohibits such limits.
The request was prompted by a comment from Hiller at the commissioners’ May 24 meeting that she had asked county staff for a financial analysis of a proposed change to the county’s impact fee law.
The change, approved by commissioners 4-1 with Hiller dissenting, lowered impact fees for some land uses by breaking them out into new categories.
Hiller questioned whether the changes would unfairly benefit medical device manufacturer Arthrex, whose expansion plans have been targeted by Hiller. Economic development incentives for Arthrex’s expansion have been a major point of contention among commissioners.
Klatzkow’s proposal would put no limits on commissioners’ requests for information about items on upcoming commission agendas as long as the agenda items weren’t initiated by that commissioner.
For projects initiated by individual commissioners, the county manager would have to deem that the project serves a public purpose before authorizing the use of county resources or staff members, according to the proposal.
If the county manager determines that the project will take more than 16 hours of county staff time, or that it doesn’t serve a public purpose, work cannot proceed without approval by a majority vote of county commissioners, the proposal says.
Klatzkow offers two alternatives, one more restrictive and one less restrictive.
The more restrictive alternative would apply the public purpose rule and 16-hour limit to all requests; the less restrictive alternative would drop the 16-hour limit.
Hiller couldn’t immediately be reached for comment about the proposal.
Henning said Friday that he wants clarification on parts of the proposal but that he supports putting limits on special requests driven by individual commissioners.
He said Coletta is the commissioner that most frequently wants county staff members to help him with special projects in his district.
“This might be a good idea to save staff time that is paid for by taxpayers,” Henning said.
Coletta couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but has said before that he gets commissioners’ approval before using county staff for large projects and has angrily vowed not to be deterred from representing his district’s best interests.
In May, Coletta said he saw “real problems” with Hiller’s requests.
“We’re wasting an awful lot of staff time and resources trying to satisfy a single person,” Coletta said.
In reply, Hiller produced a two-page response she got to her request for a financial analysis and said it wasn’t a burden on county staff.
She said then that she would continue to ask for whatever information she needs to make informed decisions.
“It’s my right as a matter of law and you won’t stop me,” Hiller said at the time.