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COLLIER COUNTY — The vote went the way Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala wanted Tuesday.
Her strategic motion to reconsider a 4-1 vote to spend $925,000 in tourist taxes to fight erosion on a stretch of Hideaway Beach on Marco Island failed, just as she had hoped. Based on the county attorney's opinion, it shouldn't be reconsidered again.
Fiala made the motion because she feared another commissioner would do it at the next board meeting in December — when a change in leadership might have swayed the vote in favor of reconsideration, ultimately overturning the controversial grant that she aggressively fought for in her district.
She said to reconsider the grant would be "a direct slap in the face to the city of Marco Island."
The grant request came from the city and the Hideaway Beach Tax District, which is contributing nearly $1.43 million toward the project.
Fiala made the motion to deny her own motion, which was then seconded by outgoing Commissioner Jim Coletta. It passed by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Tom Henning objecting. Henning, who spoke against the grant, but ultimately voted for it last month, planned to make his own reconsideration motion. But it appeared he wasn't going to do it until the first meeting in December, when Tim Nance would be sitting in place of Coletta who voted for the grant.
Fiala said she was trying to beat Henning at his own game, fearing if the same motion was made after Nance took office it might pass if he went along with it. Nance has said he doesn't know enough about the grant to comment about how he might have voted, if given the chance.
Only commissioners who voted for the grant could make the motion to reconsider. The grant required a supermajority vote of four out of five commissioners. Commissioner Georgia Hiller was the only one who voted against it last month, saying the way the grant was presented would be an illegal use of tourist tax money.
In a memo to commissioners, County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow said Florida courts have not determined whether a second motion for reconsideration can be made in a situation like this, where it would be brought back again at the board's next meeting. He said the county's laws are "silent on the issue," so Robert's Rules of Order — considered the standard rules for running government meetings — would apply.
Those rules say if a motion to reconsider is voted on and lost, the motion "cannot be reviewed except by unanimous consent" and that "no question can be considered twice unless it was materially amended during its first reconsideration," which didn't happen on Tuesday.
Hiller, however, had a different interpretation of the rules, arguing that a motion for reconsideration can be repeated as long as there is a general consensus to do so at the next meeting. She pointed out the county's own rules don't put a limit on the number of times an item can be reconsidered.
Henning asked if Fiala met the requirement to send a memo about the vote she wanted reconsidered to the county manager before this week's meeting.
"I'm asking for the memo," he said. "Where's the memo? There's no memo on our agenda."
The county manager received an email Henning was told, which was sufficient to put her motion up for a vote.
Henning could not immediately be reached on Tuesday to comment on whether he planned to still pursue a reconsideration.
The grant will pay for the installation of three erosion control devices on the east end of Hideaway Beach. The Hideaway Special Tax District is paying for the engineering, permitting, dredging and the placement of up to 25,000 cubic yards of sand. The project has continued to move ahead, with final permits expected soon.
"We would like to begin in early February because we would like to be finished by May, which is the start of turtle season," Brechnitz said.