Hold the conspiracy theories on Marco Island.
Nothing fishy went down in selecting a new city manager, according to the candidate who unexpectedly dropped out.
A strange turn of events at Monday’s city council meeting led to innuendo this week that backroom dealings prompted Calvin Peck Jr., one of two candidates for the position, to withdraw his candidacy. On Wednesday, Peck shot down any rumors.
“No one said anything to me before I did what I did,” Peck said. “No conspiracy, no suggestion, nothing. I made that decision.”
In a letter to the councilmen Tuesday, Peck wrote that he withdrew because he believed the council should unanimously support one candidate “to give the city a real chance to be successful moving forward.” Peck, the village manager of Bald Head Island in southeastern North Carolina, declined to elaborate on his letter Wednesday, other than to address whispers of backroom dealings.
Roger Hernstadt, city manager of Marathon, located about 60 miles northeast of Key West, was chosen for the job following a split vote Monday.
City Council Chairman Ken Honecker acknowledged “there has been some innuendo that there was some master plan behind closed doors.” Those whispers arose after the seven councilmen interviewed both candidates and twice voted 4-3 in favor of Peck, one vote short of the five votes needed to approve a city manager.
Following the second vote, Honecker abruptly changed support from Peck to Hernstadt without any explanation, making the vote 4-3 in favor of Hernstadt. Then, following a brief recess, Honecker returned and announced Peck had withdrawn his candidacy. Peck didn’t address the board at the time and left without speaking before the council, which unanimously voted to choose Hernstadt.
Honecker said he switched his vote because his priority was to immediately install a new city manager, particularly because interim City Manager Guillermo Polanco will start transitioning the city to a new software system in two weeks. The supporters of Hernstadt — councilmen Larry Honig, Amadeo Petricca and Larry Sacher — were unlikely to change their votes, Honecker said.
“I just know from their personalities they probably would not have changed their mind and we would have done nothing and been in a limbo state,” Honecker said.
All seven councilmen praised both candidates, with most finding only small differences between the two. Honecker said he originally favored Peck due to his military background.
Councilman Joe Batte, originally a Peck supporter, said he was “kind of puzzled” by Honecker’s switch and “shocked” by Peck’s withdrawal. Ultimately, Batte said he accepted the sequence of events.
“I was very disappointed,” Batte said. “I had suspicions as to what happened during that recess, but they were not warranted.”