Bonita Springs council gives fellow board member six months to improve behavior

A Bonita Springs councilwoman has until early next year to change her behavior, a majority of fellow council members agreed Wednesday.

Council members voted 4-3 that Martha Simons violated the city's code of conduct and may reprimand her after six months if her behavior doesn't change. Councilman Steve McIntosh made the motion.

"I stand on my work for 6 1/2 years and I have to complement and respect each member of the council because they are also hard workers," Simons said after the meeting.

"It's very unfortunate."

Mayor Ben Nelson said he brought the issue to Wednesday's meeting because Simons has exhibited such behavior and all other efforts to resolve the matter have failed, Nelson said.

"It is certainly not my preference to approach it in this manner," Nelson said.

Simons, who represents District 5, became emotional when the public spoke of her work.

"I think it's completely unfair," said Debra Giambo, a Bonita Springs resident. "I think it's a shameful use of council's time, regarding someone who is so dedicated and engaged in every issue and every discussion."

Moreover, Giambo said Simons consistently puts citizens ahead of everything else.

Simons apologized if she had offended anyone or if there were any misunderstandings, but she did not directly apologize for her actions. Simons said she hopes she and council can work through their differences.

Simons said she wants to be an effective council member and serve her constituents.

"I don't want to be with a sword hanging over my head," she said. "I want to be able to serve this city, this body and the citizens who elected me."

She plans to have a discussion with both the city attorney and the city manager.

In Nelson's statement, he wrote that Simons' disruptive behavior included interrupting fellow staff members, shaking her head "yes" or "no" while others were speaking and making private comments to other council members regarding issues they were about to vote on.

Councilman Bill Lonkart, who didn't believe Simons should be penalized, said Nelson is responsible of conducting the meetings.

Nelson said he will maintain order.

Former Bonita Springs Councilman John Spear supports taking action to stop "bad" behavior.

"Passion cannot exclude bad conduct," said Spear.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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