Marco Island hiring search firm to find next city manager

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle

After much deliberation, the Marco Island City Council has some clarity on how it will fill its city manager position.

Stock: Job candidates

The council unanimously voted Monday night to hire an executive search firm to find Dr. Lee Niblock's replacement after coming to the consensus that the search should not be run from the dais.

"In my opinion, it's important the council consider using a third-party expert in this search and a professional firm or independent entity," Vice-chair Charlette Roman said. "[...] I think that if council decides to be its own search firm, it could be a recipe for disaster, and I'll tell you why. There are so many opportunities for manipulation and just things going offtrack."

File:  Charlette Roman, Marco Island city councilor

The council has been deliberating how to fill it's city manager position after it voted to fire Niblock with cause on March 19. During that meeting, City Attorney Alan Gabriel told councilors that Niblock had taken four actions that could be deemed actionable.

Niblock had been on administrative leave since Feb. 20 after a battery investigation was launched by the Collier County Sheriff's Office, which has now been turned over to the State Attorney's Office for review.

Niblock has now been charged with battery in a separate incident in Alachua County, stemming from his time as county manager there.

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Up until Monday night, there has been little consensus among the council about how to conduct its next city manager search.

At the council's April 2 meeting, Chairman Jared Grifoni and Councilor Howard Reed presented different position papers for how each believed the city should go about its search.

Grifoni's proposal, which included recouping money from its last search firm, The Mercer Group, centered around gauging the interest of former candidates because some had inquired about filling the position in some capacity.

Reed’s proposal centered around how the council rushed into choosing a city manager after receiving a set of candidates.

During the same meeting, councilors Joe Batte and Bob Brown told their colleagues that the city needed to rest after the embarrassment of having to terminate Niblock.

“I’m hearing the majority of you trying to drag us through this mess again,” Councilor Joe Batte said two weeks ago. “The people that speak to me are looking for at least a one-year cooling off period. They want to rest, and they don’t want to be embarrassed as we have embarrassed them recently.”

Finance Director and Interim City Manager Gil Polanco.

While some members of the council had previously expressed interest in Interim City Manager Guillermo Polanco taking the position in a full-time capacity, Polanco said Monday that after consulting with his wife and children, he was not interested in the position at this time.

"It's fairly risky," Polanco said. "I appreciate the support that everyone has shown me and the confidence that you've given me in assuming the position on an interim basis. I think I would be doing the city a disservice if I would take the position at this time."

Although Monday's meeting saw another proposal, this time from Councilor Victor Rios who suggested posting the position on the International City/County Management Association and Florida League of Cities websites, there was more unity from the council than in the previous discussions.

Roman led the charge for hiring an independent firm with the idea of detailing the council's past search history and asking for additional layers of background checks or anything that would help the council be more successful in this search.

After Roman queried the council's interest, the majority of councilors chimed in to support her vision.

"I could not accept less than what you originally said," Batte said.

The council will hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m.,. Monday, April 23, to revise the expectations and details in its request for proposals for a firm to conduct the city manager search.

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