Collier Commission: Henning needs support to change reconsideration rules

David Albers/Staff 
 — Collier County Commissioner Tom Henning questions Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Penny Phillippi about changes made to the proposed Immokalee Master Plan at the commission meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, in Naples.   The Collier County commissioners voted 3 to 2 to ask the state for a six-month extension on the Immokalee Area Master Plan amendment.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

David Albers/Staff — Collier County Commissioner Tom Henning questions Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Penny Phillippi about changes made to the proposed Immokalee Master Plan at the commission meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, in Naples. The Collier County commissioners voted 3 to 2 to ask the state for a six-month extension on the Immokalee Area Master Plan amendment.

Tom Henning 
 District 3 Commissioner 
 Collier County Commission

Tom Henning District 3 Commissioner Collier County Commission

Commissioner Tom Henning has changed his mind.

Two of his fellow commissioners say he is just playing politics.

Henning placed 15 items on Tuesday's commission agenda for reconsideration. The items range from contracts for employees to contracts for the Marco Island Runway project.

He said he wants to reconsider the items based on new information and because he voted on some items he now believes were not in the public's best interest.

But to do so, Henning will need the support of a majority of his fellow commissioners to change the way they reconsider agenda items.

Although county ordinances don't address the subject, Robert's Rules of Order — considered the standard rules for running government meetings — say that once an item has been reconsidered, it can't be reconsidered a second time. And several of the items Henning wants another vote on were brought back at the commission's last meeting in November for reconsideration, part of pre-emptive blocking moves by Commissioner Donna Fiala and then-Commissioner Jim Coletta.

All of those reconsiderations failed, with only Henning voting in the affirmative to reconsider.

The moves were an admitted attempt by Fiala and Coletta to block future reconsideration by the commission once Coletta was gone. His term ended Nov. 20.

Commissioner Tim Nance, who replaced Coletta, has not personally weighed in on any of the issues, but said they are important.

"I am not sure any of them should be trivialized by parliamentary procedure," he said. "And if we are a divided board maybe we should have more discussion on these items."

County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow, in a Nov. 9 memo to commissioners, said a motion for reconsideration can only be made once during the meeting in which the item was heard and once within a two meeting time frame.

But he said the commissioners have the authority to interpret their reconsideration ordinance to allow a second motion if a majority of commissioners agree, a finding that he said would survive a legal challenge.

The news is baffling to some employees caught in the crossfire.

Among the items Henning wants to reconsider are amendments extending the contracts of Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Penny Phillippi and Collier Airport Authority Executive Director Chris Curry. Both have signed new contracts and said they thought the matter had been settled.

"I don't know anything else," said Phillippi. "But we're all here at the pleasure of the board."

Curry said he doesn't "understand the political shenanigans" surrounding the reconsideration of his contract.

"It's simple. I will stay around and fulfill the terms of my contract or I won't," he said. "But I clearly understand what a signed contract means."

Fiala said Henning is playing "political games" and questioned his motives. Bringing back so many items for reconsideration and possibly changing the county's reconsideration rules is a dangerous road to go down, she said.

"Doesn't that scare you a little bit? That no matter what you vote on it's never sacred anymore? That is the reason the reconsideration ordinance was put into place in the first place," she said.

Commission Chairman Fred Coyle said changing the reconsideration rules could "open an entirely different can of worms."

"Will something always be allowed to be reconsidered?" he asked. "If so, I could go through that cycle for a long time."

Changing the county's rules could lead to a loss of faith in county government, Fiala said. She gave the example of a business owner who gets approval to build a new office, but might question whether the approval would later be reconsidered.

"I mean nobody is going to do business here if that's the type of business we do," she said.

Fiala brought up the issue of spending $925,000 in tourist taxes to fight erosion on Hideaway Beach for reconsideration at the last meeting as a pre-emptive strike. Reconsidering the grant would be a "slap in the face" to Marco Island, she said. The grant request came from the city and the Hideaway Beach Tax District, which is contributing nearly $1.43 million toward the project.

Henning spoke against the grant for the beach rebuilding project, but then voted for it. That move made Fiala suspicious that he would try to bring it back for reconsideration after Nance replaced Coletta, who also voted for it.

Erik Brechnitz, chairman of the Hideaway Beach Tax District Board, said the board and the city have separate legal opinions that the grant cannot be brought up for a third time under the county's rules. Those opinions come from his board's attorney Bruce Anderson and from Burt Saunders, a retired state senator and a former county commissioner who represents the city.

"He's trying to change the rules," Brechnitz said of Henning. "Obviously, any elected body can change the rules if they want to, but they can't do it retroactively."

Saunders said his opinion on whether the commission has the right to reconsider the Hideaway grant again is "irrelevant."

If the commissioners do approve a motion to reconsider the Hideaway grant, the revote wouldn't happen until their next meeting in January. Saunders said he's prepared to be there to argue the merits for approval all over again.

Henning is not the only commissioner getting into the act. Commissioner Georgia Hiller has placed two items from the last meeting on the agenda for reconsideration — the restructuring of the commission office and approval of beach access sign renderings for installation throughout the Gulf Shore Drive corridor.

Hiller did not comment on why she put those issues on the agenda, saying it was procedural and, should commissioners agree to reconsideration, the items — like all of Henning's items — would be heard again in January.

"It's a slippery slope. We are sliding down it," said Fiala.

For Reconsideration

Items Commissioner Tom Henning wants to bring back for reconsideration

■ A recommendation to extend Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Penny Phillippi’s contract for three years and make certain changes to the contract.

■ A recommendation that the Collier County CRA Board designates the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency executive director as the special district registered agent for the Collier County CRA.

■ A recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners, acting as the CRA board, to authorize the continued operation of the Immokalee Business Development Center under the auspice of the Immokalee CRA exclusive of the partnership with the Collier County Airport Authority and the Immokalee Airport.

■ A recommendation that the Board of County Commissioners acting as the CRA approve amending the Immokalee Business Development Center’s proposal, IBDC application and IBDC policies and procedures handbook.

■ A recommendation to award a contract for the First Street Zocalo for Immokalee to David Cordban Architect, Inc. with a fiscal impact of $113,450.

■ A recommendation to extend Collier County Airport Authority Executive Director Chris Curry’s contract to Sept. 30, 2015, and amend the agreement to comport with Florida statutes.

■ A recommendation to memorialize the Oct. 23 extension of and amendments to Collier County Airport Authority Executive Director Chris Curry’s employment agreement.

■ A recommendation that the commissioners approve a contract for design and related services for the Immokalee Regional Airport runway rehabilitation project in the amount of $761,000 with Hole Montes, Inc.

A recommendation that the commissioner approve design and related services for the Marco Island Executive Airport runway rehabilitation project in the amount of $660,000 with Hole Montes, Inc.

■ A recommendation to adopt a resolution terminating the employment agreement with Ian Mitchell, the executive manager to the Board of County Commissioners.

■ A recommendation to discuss Item 11E from the board’s Sept. 11, 2012, agenda regarding wastewater basin program contracts.

A recommendation to consider a Tourist Development Council grant application from the City of Marco Island/Hideaway Beach District for erosion control structures at Hideaway Beach.

■ A recommendation to review and approve the 2012 combines annual update and inventory report on public facilities and capital improvement element amendment as provided for in the Collier County Land Development Code.

■ A recommendation to approve an interlocal agreement relating to the establishment of the Gulf Consortium to act on behalf of Collier County in the implementation of the Resources and Ecosystems Stainability Tourist Opportunities and Revised Economics of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012.

■ A recommendation to appoint a member of the Collier County Planning Commission.

— Compiled by staff writer Katherine Albers

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

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