Editor's Note: The lead on this story has been updated to more clearly state the reason for Milk's termination.
The Marco Island employee serving in place of fired community affairs director Bryan Milk, who was dismissed for failing to disclose a conflict of interest, reversed course Monday on a zoning issue connected to the conflict.
Joe Irvin, the city’s interim community affairs director, told city council members he believed Milk wrongly interpreted a city code, leading to an incorrect opinion.
Irvin said he originally backed Milk’s opinion but revisited the ruling following Milk’s firing. Irvin said his decision to overrule Milk was not based on any belief that Milk improperly benefited a business associate.
“Once I found out the entire (code) interpretation was going to be defended by me, I went back to the drawing board,” Irvin said.
In September, Milk issued an opinion that allowed for storage in a building that competitors said wasn’t zoned for storage. The building, Progressive Auto, is owned by Lisa and Mike Kelly, with whom Milk had an undisclosed investment in the business, interim city manager Guillermo Polanco wrote in a letter dated Thursday.
Council members unanimously voted Monday to delay a ruling on an appeal to Milk’s original ruling, citing Irvin’s change of heart. Irvin said he wasn’t pressured by Milk to agree with the original opinion or by council members to reverse course.
The change came as a surprise to Douglas Lewis, a lawyer representing the owners of Rizzi Storage and Industrial and Marco Self Storage.
“That was a blindside on our end,” Lewis said, adding a note of frustration that council members delayed a vote on his clients’ appeal.
Richard Yovanovich, a lawyer representing Mark Smalls, who owns two floors of Progressive Auto, said he plans to appeal Irvin’s revised opinion.