New interim city manager: Marco Island City Council chooses finance director Polanco for temp job

Gill Polanco loses his customary poker face, momentarily. Marco Island's City Council selected Finance Director Gill Polanco, left, to serve as interim City Manager at their special-called meeting Monday afternoon, taking over from retiring incumbent Jim Riviere, center. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Gill Polanco loses his customary poker face, momentarily. Marco Island's City Council selected Finance Director Gill Polanco, left, to serve as interim City Manager at their special-called meeting Monday afternoon, taking over from retiring incumbent Jim Riviere, center. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Meet the new bossÉCity department heads Mike Murphy, from left, Bryan Milk, Gretchen Baldus, Jeff Poteet, and Tim Pinter listen to the meeting. Marco Island's City Council selected Finance Director Gill Polanco to serve as interim City Manager at their special-called meeting Monday afternoon. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Meet the new bossÉCity department heads Mike Murphy, from left, Bryan Milk, Gretchen Baldus, Jeff Poteet, and Tim Pinter listen to the meeting. Marco Island's City Council selected Finance Director Gill Polanco to serve as interim City Manager at their special-called meeting Monday afternoon. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— In a display of unity and consensus not always apparent from Marco Island’s City Council, the seven councilors chose Finance Director Gill Polanco as the new, temporary city manager, and agreed to work with a second headhunter to find a permanent replacement.

At their special-called meeting Monday afternoon in council chambers below the police department headquarters, the council quickly settled on Polanco to be the city’s interim chief executive after Sept. 30, when incumbent City Manager Jim Riviere’s retirement takes effect. If Polanco takes the job, he will start right away, but he did not actually accept.

“I’d like to have a week to discuss it with my wife,” said Polanco, after declaring himself “honored” to be asked, and happy with the compensation package and conditions offered. In addition, City Council Chairman Joe Batte also announced that former City Council Chairman Bill Trotter had agreed to consult with Polanco in an advisory role.

“Our interim city manager should come from the family,” said Batte, putting Polanco forward for the interim manager position. Noting that “Gill is kind of new with us,” Batte said that to help with the transition, “Councilor Trotter was kind enough to offer his expertise on unpaid basis as a special advisor.”

Councilor Larry Honig laid out the way a transfer of the manager’s job to Polanco, and Polanco to the job, could work, in a memo he shared with the other councilors after vetting it with City Attorney Burt Saunders for any Sunshine Law violations.

It laid out, among other items, a $3,000 per month bump in salary for Polanco, while he is acting as manager, a tenure that is expected to last at least until the beginning of 2014. While councilors made clear that they were looking for, in effect, a caretaker arrangement, with no major shifts in direction for city government while under temporary leadership, Honig cautioned them that, when they name a city manager, interim or not, they are ceding power to that individual.

“We have no right to tell city manager not to do things permissible under city charter. We can fire him,” said Honig. But the council agreed that appointment, suspension, promotion, or dismissal of city employees, with certain exceptions, should be brought to City Council. At the same time, the councilors, particularly Honig and Ken Honecker, sought to ensure Polanco would not suffer from actions he took as city manager once he returned to his position as finance director.

Doing the job “without major changes would keep the politics from him,” said Councilor Bob Brown, also noting that the finance department is going to begin the implementation of their new ERP system.

“Put it in writing the acting city manager is allowed to return to his job, with no negative consequences from this action,” said Honig. Honecker added that Polanco should be paid additional severance if he should be fired within two years though “not if he embezzles,” or for cause, in other words with six months salary, the maximum allowable under Florida law, indicated.

Councilor Larry Sacher also expressed strong support for Polanco, noting “I’ve nominated him on two occasions before.” He cautioned that Trotter’s advisory position could not be used as a conduit to councilmen. “Under the Sunshine Law, you can’t have a liaison, someone who will tell you what someone else said.” And if Polanco opted not to take the job, which no one seemed to think was likely, Sacher proposed putting him in anyway on an emergency basis, as the city would be manager-less Oct. 1, when Riviere’s resignation takes effect.

That was the second half of the meeting, although it was first on the agenda. Before choosing Polanco, the councilors quizzed Bob Slavin of Slavin Management Consultants, chosen to take over the search for a permanent city manager after the previous consultant was allowed to resign the assignment, barely ahead of a sure vote to terminate his contract.

Slavin professed respect for his predecessor, Colin Baenziger Associates, who is credited with having placed 70 percent of the Florida city manager jobs that have come available in recent years. Councilors focused on ensuring that the process would work better this time. Slavin promised that he would personally take the lead in working with candidates and the council.

Slavin urged not advertising a salary for the job, a point which was echoed by Marco resident Peter Piro, retired principal of an executive search firm, during public comment.

“Never talk salary. You want someone to fall in love with the job, not the money,” said Piro. He advocated speaking with direct supervisors of the applicants, not just references provided by the candidates, and asking for a copy of their last pay slip.

Sacher expressed concern that candidates might think Marco Island dysfunctional, having fired the consultant who had placed so many Florida city managers. Given that the council has indicated they want a manager with Florida experience, with financial savvy and operating water and sewer utilities, and the previous headhunter had collected over a hundred names, it will be interesting to see who ends up in the job. While it is not set in stone, Polanco was not expected to be a contender for the permanent manager position, and Slavin cautioned that in-house candidates are a major red flag for potential outside candidates.

After the meeting, each councilor sat down for a series of individual sessions with Slavin, before he caught a flight home the next morning.

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Comments » 15

OldMarcoMan writes:

Good 'Ol Boy to Good 'Ol Boy,
If the City hadn't ruined Property Values on Marco this would be a good time to shimmy out of here.

MrBreeze writes:

Oldmarcoman Greed and Hype ruined property values. Ever heard of "to much of a good thing"?

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to MrBreeze:

Oldmarcoman Greed and Hype ruined property values. Ever heard of "to much of a good thing"?

I prefer the other old saying: "Pigs get Fat, Hogs get Slaughtered", especially when the Hogs were realtors, and other Aiders and Abettor’s.

26yearsonmarco writes:

Why can't we just appoint Polanco the permanent city manager, and promote another existing City employee to assist him????

WMissow writes:

26,

Didn't you know they have to pay search firms huge amounts of money so that they can find us possible city managers that other places want to rid them selves of?

Take the list of the potential ones the last search firm found us. It seemed that you could have gotten some of the names from photos at the post office, and we had to pay that agency for their services.

I would easily bet if Gill put his name out there, several cities would hire him in two seconds, especially when being compared to the list the search agency "found" for us.

Konfuzius writes:

Good man! Give him a promotion and safe a lot of money.

RayPray writes:

in response to WMissow:

26,

Didn't you know they have to pay search firms huge amounts of money so that they can find us possible city managers that other places want to rid them selves of?

Take the list of the potential ones the last search firm found us. It seemed that you could have gotten some of the names from photos at the post office, and we had to pay that agency for their services.

I would easily bet if Gill put his name out there, several cities would hire him in two seconds, especially when being compared to the list the search agency "found" for us.

$earch firms and con$ultant$ are simply cover your assss strategy embraced by lazy &/or clueless politicians & bureaucrats.

Then when the pick screws up, the local bigwigs can just say we thought we bough the best advice.

Check this new book to see how the masters play this game:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Firm-McKins...

WMissow writes:

Ray,

From my experience in thi$ kind of matter you are ab$olutely "right on"!

OldMarcoMan writes:

WMissow, 26yearsonmarco and Ray I think you have hit it on the head.

WizeOlMarco writes:

in response to 26yearsonmarco:

Why can't we just appoint Polanco the permanent city manager, and promote another existing City employee to assist him????

Unknown if Polanco wants the City Manager position (news story said he was going to talk with his family). No 'assistant' needed...the City employees, Board Members and residents are the assistants.

MrBreeze writes:

In all reality, I think we have made this position way to important. The City should be run by the City Council that the people elect. Day to day operations need to be supervised by a manager. What is the big challenge here????

ed34145 writes:

Mr. Breeze...perhaps you should read the City Charter....what you describe is NOT the type of government set out in the Charter. If you want that type of government, then you need to change the Charter.

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to ed34145:

Mr. Breeze...perhaps you should read the City Charter....what you describe is NOT the type of government set out in the Charter. If you want that type of government, then you need to change the Charter.

I have a better idea:

Start a petition to cancel the Charter and return to County management.

Konfuzius writes:

in response to 26yearsonmarco:

I have a better idea:

Start a petition to cancel the Charter and return to County management.

I am really happy that you come to my opinion.

MrBreeze writes:

I agree, I said that many times before with MIPD and Fire Services. Revert back to the County and save the place while there is still time.

Make the bridge a toll (residents free) give the money to the County to operate Marco Island and there will be more than enough money to LOWER property taxes. Cut out the waste and the drama. Run it like it should be run.

I believe Collier County can and would do a fine job.

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