MARCO ISLAND — If a series of coincidences sparked Marco Island City Manager Jim Riviere’s resignation, Councilor Larry Honig says he did not strike the match.
Unfolding events during the week of April 15 may have led some to speculate about the city manager’s announcement. Since November, he has been peppered by complaints from members of Marco Island’s City Council disappointed with his performance.
On March 8, Collier County Manager Leo Ochs sent an email to Marco Island’s Council Chairman Joe Batte requesting a proposal for providing fire-rescue services to Isles of Capri’s Fire Control District. East Naples Fire District received the same request. Proposals were due to the county manager by April 15.
Honig learned of the request mid-March from a newspaper article, he said Tuesday, and asked the city manager to bring it to council for discussion.
Batte said he received the county’s request on March 12 and forwarded it to the city manager but not to other council members. He expected staff to come back to council with its findings. Council should have had the opportunity to use the information to make its decision, he said. That didn’t happen.
According to an email from Len Price dated April 16, the county manager approved an extension request for Marco Island’s proposal until April 19. The request noted extenuating circumstances. East Naples delivered its proposal to the county by the deadline.
Price confirmed the county attorney allowed the extension in the best interests of the parties involved and because it was not an advertised public solicitation.
On April 17, Honig learned in an email from Riviere that a proposal for fire consolidation was not viable. Riviere attached a letter dated April 10 from Marco Island Fire Chief Mike Murphy and Deputy Chief Chris Byrne explaining the city’s position. The letter had already been forwarded to the county manager in place of a city proposal.
In his memo, Riviere asked that all questions be directed to him rather than Murphy who was absent on medical leave.
Honig immediately returned comments to the city manager through the city attorney expressing his disappointment.
“The Capri matter is unacceptable on many levels,” he wrote. Honig was bothered that the decision was not made by council nor were financial aspects sufficiently explored.
“It’s particularly galling to note the date on Chief Byrne’s memo to you, which surely could have been distributed to council during or prior to our April 15 council meeting,” Honig wrote.
On April 18, Riviere announced his retirement as city manager, citing future plans and completed accomplishments as reasons for leaving. Honig said there was no way his email precipitated Riviere’s decision.
Upon inquiry on Wednesday, Riviere referred all questions on the Isles of Capri proposal to Byrne.
Byrne said he and Murphy authored the letter after looking at documents provided by the county. He defended its recommendations based on the short amount of time available to look at the complex issue. He also pointed to a lack of detail provided by the county that prohibited a full evaluation.
“We did not have sufficient time for a detailed analysis and we wanted to be fair to Marco Island residents and Isles of Capri residents,” he said.
Batte put the letter and a possible proposal on council’s May 6 agenda promising a full discussion.
“This has been a hazy issue and it’s not a staff decision,” he said. “The letter shouldn’t have gone out without a council decision.”
Honig, Batte and Byrne felt there was still time to consider proposals for working with Capri’s fire district. Murphy is expected to return from medical leave by Monday and is planning to participate in council’s discussion.