New face on the dais: Bob Brown selected to fill Magel's City Council seat

Bob Brown selected to fill Magel's City Council seat

Lance Shearer/File
Planning Board member Bob Brown makes a point during a 2012 meeting. City Council chose Brown to fill Larry Magel’s term on Monday.

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Lance Shearer/File Planning Board member Bob Brown makes a point during a 2012 meeting. City Council chose Brown to fill Larry Magel’s term on Monday.

Former Councilor Larry Magel's seat sits empty. Marco Island's City Council met Monday evening, and selected Bob Brown to fill out Magel's term. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Former Councilor Larry Magel's seat sits empty. Marco Island's City Council met Monday evening, and selected Bob Brown to fill out Magel's term. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— It was the shortest election campaign on record. Within 20 minutes of the start of their meeting, Marco Island’s City Council filled the gap in their ranks left by the sudden resignation of Councilor Larry Magel on Aug. 14.

As the first order of business, Chairman Joe Batte noted the city charter requires only a simple majority vote to fill the position, more than halfway through an incumbent’s term, and opened the floor to discussion.

“I’m looking for council discussion,” he said. Councilor Larry Sacher proposed selecting Planning Commission vice chairman Bob Brown, saying his record with the city speaks for itself, and invoking the important issues looming just ahead for City Council.

“He would be here for the first reading of the budget,” noted Sacher. Councilor Amadeo Petricca moved to select Brown. Councilor Larry Honig urged a “time out,” saying, “I’d like to see a 6-0 vote.” All the council members, he said, had received numerous emails with recommendations or requests for consideration.

“Give people time to send in resumes. We don’t want to move in too rapid a fashion,” agreed Councilor Chuck Kiester. Vice Chairman Ken Honecker said Magel had left when he did so that his replacement could be in place “as soon as possible with a very tight schedule,” for selecting a new city manager as well as approving the budget.

After public comments in favor of Brown, who was out of town, the board voted 4-2 in his favor, with Honig and Kiester dissenting. Brown became the newest council member from that moment, said City Attorney Burt Saunders, subject to sunshine law provisions, although his ceremonial swearing-in will not occur until his first meeting. Batte noted that Brown had been his appointee to the Planning Board, and promised to move expeditiously to fill the vacancy created.

Despite having been in meetings since 10 a.m., when they began a budget workshop, with the council’s budget sub-committee and department heads presenting their recommendations for spending in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, councilors gave a full airing to all the questions presented to them in Monday evening’s regular session. These included action to raise utility rates, reconsider once again the award of contracts for the Smokehouse Bay Bridge, and the prospect of bringing legal proceedings against the Esplanade for not obeying the requirement in their PUD to allow boaters use of the slips at the marina.

Councilors including Batte and Sacher said they really didn’t want to raise utility rates, finding themselves “between a rock and a hard place,” but that is what they voted, however reluctantly, to do. Council heard from bond financing consultant Robert Ori that if the city did not raise water and sewer rates by seven percent, they would be unable to refinance the utility bonds at favorable rates. Usage, he said, had dropped nine percent over the last several years, and rates had not been raised for two years. Without a rate increase to ensure sufficient funds for operations and reserves, rating agencies would lower the grade of the city’s utility bonds, slashing the returns the city could garner.

Honig took the council through a series of charts, a laboriously compiled recitation showing how Marco Island stacks up against comparable Florida cities in its debt load. He concluded that Marco is near the top in terms of debt carried, and that is why water and sewer bills are so high. On utility costs per dwelling, he said, Marco is the highest in the state for “apples to apples” municipalities.

But Honig, too, voted in favor of the rate increase. Only Kiester voted no, asking whether the council was trying to do a rate increase via the back door, and “misleading people on our real intent.” The seven percent utility rate hike passed 5-1.

Council also voted 5-1, again with Kiester dissenting, to once again reject all bids for construction of the Smokehouse Bay Bridge, that had initially been rejected, then seen those rejections rescinded. Staff was directed to ascertain costs for a complete redesign of the bridge, with fewer “bells and whistles” such as the prominent steel arches, but including necessary items like lighting and a comprehensive replacement of the seawall underneath, and provide the best estimate for a serious rehab of the existing bridge, to add five to 10 years to the lifespan of the span.

Councilors voted unanimously to approve a new radio system for first responders and city staffers, after being told by Assistant Police Chief Dave Baer that new Federal regulations, which made the existing radios non-compliant, left the city no choice.

“We absolutely have to do this,” said Baer. City Council will meet again on September 2, with the assignment of setting the millage rate for the coming year on tap.

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Comments » 11

WMissow writes:

Bob,

We are expecting better credibility than from the councilman you replaced. Good luck in your new position.

OldMarcoMan writes:

Good Luck Bob, don]'t know you personally but I've seen you at Council Meetings and I think you have a level head.
You will do a good job, just remember its not your money, and you work for the people.
Again GOOD LUCK !

ed34145 writes:

Many members of the public will never believe that the Sunshine Laws weren't violated by this appointment....It was probably pre decided at Dunkin' Donuts by a meeting of the "the minds".

OldMarcoMan writes:

What Minds? Did they bring in outside consultants ?

2themoon writes:

Mr. Brown is a fresh new face to this council. Im sick of the 'Tucker mold' councillors that work with an agenda when dealing with Marcos affairs. Mr.Brown will do whats right for all of Marcos residents not just for a select few.

marco97 writes:

Ed if your buddy Tucker was in office the seat would have went to the highest bidder.

marco97 writes:

We still need to get Tuckers name removed from City Hall, talk about sunshine law violations, the fix was in when they named it after him.

Avenger writes:

In the January 4, 2010 City Council meeting agenda, one of the business items was: “DISCUSSION – Naming of City Facilities or Rooms.” At the meeting itself, what was supposed to be the creation of a policy to rename city buildings (other than parks), turned into a motion by former Councilor Gibson to name City Hall after the late Councilor E. Glenn Tucker. Former Chairman Popoff aided and abetted Gibson; and there just happened to be a number of Tucker’s friends and associates at the meeting who spoke in favor of the action. Voila—done deal, 6-0 vote to name City Hall after Tucker. Much talk later of Sunshine violations, but no investigation.

Fast forward to Aug 19, 2013. Listed on the City Council meeting agenda is “Process for the appointment to fill Council vacancy per City Charter, Section 3.05.” At the meeting, there was no discussion of process, instead Councilor Sacher made a motion to appoint Brown; Councilor Petricca seconded it. When Councilors Honig and Kiester tried to bring the others back to the process discussion, Councilor Honecker barked that they had to appoint someone right away (ironic, because Brown is out of state, and won’t be back on Marco until mid-Sept.) Then all these folks got up to praise Brown. Chairman Batte praises Brown, calls the vote. Vote 4-2; Brown is appointed. Déjà vu?

As I watched, I thought that this thing was wired a little bit too tight—there had to be some “cloudy” collusion going on. And what a disservice to the other citizens who had volunteered. Wonder why there wasn’t even a list of those who did?

ajm3s writes:

in response to Avenger:

In the January 4, 2010 City Council meeting agenda, one of the business items was: “DISCUSSION – Naming of City Facilities or Rooms.” At the meeting itself, what was supposed to be the creation of a policy to rename city buildings (other than parks), turned into a motion by former Councilor Gibson to name City Hall after the late Councilor E. Glenn Tucker. Former Chairman Popoff aided and abetted Gibson; and there just happened to be a number of Tucker’s friends and associates at the meeting who spoke in favor of the action. Voila—done deal, 6-0 vote to name City Hall after Tucker. Much talk later of Sunshine violations, but no investigation.

Fast forward to Aug 19, 2013. Listed on the City Council meeting agenda is “Process for the appointment to fill Council vacancy per City Charter, Section 3.05.” At the meeting, there was no discussion of process, instead Councilor Sacher made a motion to appoint Brown; Councilor Petricca seconded it. When Councilors Honig and Kiester tried to bring the others back to the process discussion, Councilor Honecker barked that they had to appoint someone right away (ironic, because Brown is out of state, and won’t be back on Marco until mid-Sept.) Then all these folks got up to praise Brown. Chairman Batte praises Brown, calls the vote. Vote 4-2; Brown is appointed. Déjà vu?

As I watched, I thought that this thing was wired a little bit too tight—there had to be some “cloudy” collusion going on. And what a disservice to the other citizens who had volunteered. Wonder why there wasn’t even a list of those who did?

Excellent post! It would have been appropriate to allow a discussion of citizens who had shown interest for the seat. Perhaps, the list and resumes could have been distributed and reviewed publicly for a vote at the next council meeting.

I will go out on a limb to say that Mr. Honig's goal of achieving a 6-0 vote would have been met, with Mr. Brown as the winner. Mr. Honig and Mr. Kiester were true to the agenda, and I applaud them for casting a dissenting vote.

For the record, I am a huuuuuuge supporter of Mr. Brown.

As for myself, is this déjà vu? I say no when I compare how I interpreted process and result.

January, 2010
Process: Disapprove
Outcome of Vote: Disapprove
August, 2013
Process: Disapprove
Outcome of Vote: Approve

WMissow writes:

Funny how many of those complaining about the method used to appoint Robert Brown were not complaining how the naming of City Hall to an admitted prefabricater came about.

I agree with ajm regarding the methodology in both instances. It may not be right but if the syndicate had the majority I do not believe we would have had two dissentions by the councilors, most likely only one.

Newegg writes:

Re: Hascle’s post. Yes, the photo above is representative of both the planning board and the city council—100% male, white, and of a certain age! Wonder which one of his old cronies Joe Batte will appoint to replace Brown?

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