Discussion on Marco city manager search to resume Monday

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle

Despite the revolving door in its city manager’s office, the city of Marco Island has a number of interested suitors ready to fill the chair.

It was revealed during last week’s City Council meeting that former candidates for the position had contacted the city to express interest in the position after Dr. Lee Niblock was placed on administrative leave and ultimately terminated with cause.

File/November 2017 : The City of Marco Island hosted a "Meet the City Manager Candidates" in the city council chambers.

Chairman Jared Grifoni says the city has been flooded with additional prospective candidates and intends to put the discussion on the agenda for the foreseeable future, including posting all of the resumes and emails from interested parties, until the city can determine how it will proceed.

“What I’m hearing from the community is they want to see a city manager every day,” Grifoni said. “It needs to be someone who wants the job and wants to be here. To leave the position open and in flux is a disservice to the community and staff.”

Niblock was terminated on March 19 after City Attorney Alan Gabriel told the council that four actions Niblock took were fireable including interviewing a job applicant at a restaurant and ordering wine.

Lee Niblock, former Marco Island city manager

Niblock was placed on administrative leave on Feb. 20 after allegations of battery surfaced on Feb. 6. While a Collier County Sheriff’s Office investigation is now in the hands of the State Attorney's Office.

Niblock was also recently charged with battery in Alachua County after a former job applicant told police that Niblock had placed his hand on her leg and lifted the hem of her skirt. 

At the time of that alleged incident, Niblock was the Alachua County manager.

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The process for determining Niblock’s successor is still unknown, but from the conversations the council has had thus far, Grifoni said the prevailing opinion appears to be that The Mercer Group is not going to be leading the search moving forward.

“I personally wasn’t happy with any of the candidates,” Councilor Bob Brown said during the April 2 council meeting. “The red flags were out there. Where were we?”

Jared Grifoni

While its contract with The Mercer Group allows the city to have another search done at no cost because Niblock’s tenure was less than 24 months, Grifoni said it was clear that The Mercer Group did not fulfill its promise.

Grifoni has instructed Gabriel to look at recouping costs, which he said would be in the best interest of both parties.

The Mercer Group did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

Although Grifoni was still interested in gauging the interest of former candidates, he was adamant that all candidates moving forward would need to be vetted again.

“Regardless of whether it’s an old candidate or new, the city needs a full background check on everybody,” Grifoni said.

During last week’s council meeting, a few members expressed concerns about the perception of the city given the short tenure of recent city managers.

But despite the lack of stability, Grifoni said the latest upheaval has shown there to be a healthy interest in working for the city.

“From the moment Dr. Niblock had been placed on leave, former candidates, as well as a whole new set of candidates, even expressed interest in replacing him on a temporary or permanent basis,” Grifoni said. “If anything, popularity and interest in Marco Island are extremely strong. We just need to continue to look at the process and bring things forward as far as the city manager search and process.”

City Council meets Monday at 5:30 p.m.

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