Search for the next Marco Island city manager continues

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Marco Island city councilor Howard Reed

In a few weeks time, the city of Marco Island will know which search firm will help find its next city manager.

The City Council met in a special meeting Monday evening to refine the expectations outlined in its request for proposals for a search firm. 

Working off the template that resulted in the previous selection of its previous search firm, The Mercer Group, the council voted 4-1 to release the RFP that will require submissions by May 14 before the council discusses the issue on its May 21 agenda.

Councilor Howard Reed, who earlier this month submitted a white paper outlining the ways the council rushed the process in the past, reiterated his concerns as he cast the lone dissenting vote.

"We haven't even taken the first step and we're already rushing it," Reed said. "This is the most important thing we as a city council do. If we don't do this well, if we don't pursue candidates of excellence, if we do not find an excellent city manager, we're letting the people of this island down."

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The council is attempting to restore stability to its government functions after it voted to terminate former City Manager Lee Niblock on March 19 with cause.

Niblock was placed on leave on Feb. 20 after an investigation into battery allegations was launched, but it was determined that Niblock had taken four actions during his three-month tenure that could be deemed actionable.

While the Collier County Sheriff's Office has turned over the case to the State Attorney's Office for review, Niblock is facing separate battery charges in Alachua County, where he previously was the county manager.

In the meantime, Finance Director Guillermo Polanco has been serving as the interim city manager but has indicated that he is not interested in assuming the role in a full-time capacity at the moment.

Although Reed worried about the council rushing the process again, Councilor Victor Rios said that three weeks was a sufficient amount of time for search firms to respond with their proposals.

Rios agreed that the council should take its time when it came to choosing a candidate, but not in finding a search firm.

As part of the RFP, the council made a few changes, including adding more information about Marco Island's features and the upcoming Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity vote on Aug. 28 at the suggestion of Chairman Jared Grifoni.

It was also suggested by Reed that the city remove language about performing in-person visits as part of the search requirements.

"I believe that visiting the community that a candidate lives and works or has worked can be a valuable asset in gathering data and would be useful in our decision-making process," Reed said. "However, I believe it has been suggested all along that this task would be carried out by members of the City Council. I'm strongly opposed to assigning this task to the search firm for the following reasons: it's going to be time-consuming and it's going to be expensive."

Instead, Reed suggested that the council members interested in being a part of the process should invest their own time and expenses and questioned whether having a search firm undertake those services was standard practice.

Councilors Joe Batte and Bob Brown were absent from Monday's meeting.