MARCO ISLAND — It took less than three days to terminate Marco Island Community Affairs Director Bryan Milk. In a letter from Interim City Manager Guillermo Polanco dated Jan. 2, the termination was immediate.
An “obvious conflict of interest” was the reason given by Polanco. Milk failed to disclose a business relationship with Mike and Lisa Kelly of Progressive Auto while evaluating land use matters that could affect them, he wrote.
Polanco recently learned Milk sold his member interest in Progressive’s Xpress Mart but held a promissory note from Mike Kelly for the purchase of that interest. Milk should have recused himself from any involvement with matters concerning a business relationship, Polanco wrote.
Milk was also cited for insubordination for a lack of response to a requested meeting and phone calls.
Milk joined the city Jan. 4, 1999, as a city planner. In 2011 he was appointed to his current position.
Douglas Spiegel, attorney for Milk, responded with a press release on Jan. 3. In it, he complained that Milk was not given due process prior to termination. The press release specifically named Marco Island City Councilor Larry Sacher as the architect of the swift firing.
“The unilateral archaic commands at the helm of Sacher have deprived Bryan Milk of any and all due process and any other constitutional right one might have living in the 21st Century,” Spiegel wrote.
Milk missed the meeting, Spiegel wrote, due to illness and had left work. He claimed Milk’s fellow employees knew he was not feeling well.
Spiegel admitted Milk had a relationship with the Xpress Mart, but claimed he did not use his influence to benefit it. He also contended Milk was not contacted by Polanco other than the one email on Dec. 31.
In a letter to the Naples Daily News Sacher responded to Spiegel's press release:
"Suffice to say that (1) the Marco Island City Charter specifically indicates that Members of Council have no control over City Staff and (2) I had nothing to do with Mr. Milk's termination, nor was I involved in the decision making process other than to have a conversation with our Interim City Manager who, I was led to believe, spoke to all members of Council."
On Dec. 30, Milk said he held a member interest in the Xpress Mart until May 2013.
Marco Island’s Planning Board heard requests in April and May from Mike Kelly, Sr., to allow more types of storage in Progressive Auto’s Car Condo. Milk represented the city at both public hearings but did not mention his relationship with the petitioner’s family or family business.
At the first hearing, board members questioned who petitioned them for the change. On Monday, Milk said the petitioner was Kelly although the city initiated April’s public hearing. At the request of then City Manager Jim Riviere, Milk said, Kelly was asked to take up the petition shortly before the hearing.
In September, Milk wrote an Official Interpretation that broadened the range of permitted uses for the car condo. It opened the door for more than auto storage including trailers holding boats, jet skis, lawn maintenance equipment and other trailerable items and larger vehicles capable of fitting into the building’s freight elevator.
A challenge to the interpretation was sent to Marco Island’s City Council, the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.