FCCMA senior advisor leaves manager search help in Marco Island City Council's hands

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Marco Island City Hall

Florida City and County Management Association senior advisor Ken Parker left the Marco Island City Council with four questions it needs to answer as the city seeks an interim city manager.

Parker, one of nine senior advisors, gave the Council a brief introduction and overview of the senior advisor program Monday night after the Council showed preliminary interest in seeking help last month.

The first question Parker posed to City Council was a big one: Is the Senior Advisor program the right fit for finding an interim manager in Marco Island?

The senior advisor program is a free service that utilizes retired managers to help smaller cities with the following functions:

  • Outlining to elected officials the placement process based on ICMA guidelines.
  • Determining qualifications, compensation and position requirements.
  • Assisting local staff with position advertisements.
  • Reviewing and recommending semi-finalist candidates based on position standards established by the governing body.
  • Providing assistance to the jurisdiction during the interview phase of the placement process.

Marco Island's problems with its city managers have gone on for years with its most recent hire, Dr. Lee Niblock, lasting a little more than three months.

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Niblock was fired by council on March 19 after it was determined that a few of his actions were cause for termination; actions came to light when Niblock was being investigated for battery, which he was later charged.

The actions included:

  • Claiming confirmation of every finding in last year’s employee climate survey
  • Interviewing a female job candidate at a restaurant and ordering wine.
  • Demanding the battery investigation be sent to the highest level of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office
  • The appearance of a potential mass firing of city staff

Finance Director Guillermo Polanco has been serving as acting city manager in the time since but has indicated he is not interested in filling the position in a full-time capacity.

Despite the revolving door in the city manager's office, several candidates have expressed interest in filling the position in some capacity, even right after Niblock was fired.

After approving the release of a request for proposals for an executive search firm, the council could not find enough votes to hire any of the responding firms, leaving the position in Polanco's hands.

While the council has bickered about the need to find a full-time manager, it was at the suggestion of Vice-Chair Charlette Roman that the city invited FCCMA to its meeting.

Parker told the council that he had reached out to potential candidates on the FCCMA's member-in-transition list and found that there was interest from candidates willing to serve in an interim capacity.

Parker said if the city wanted to use the services, it then had to ask itself if Parker was a good fit as an advisor for the council. Parker noted that there would not be any hard feelings and another advisor could be called on if the city wanted someone else.

After the city finds the advisor it wants to use, Parker said the city needed to find consensus on how fast it wanted to move to fill the manager's position.

If the council wanted to move quickly, they would find interested candidates off of the transition list; otherwise, an advertisement would be posted, which Parker said would take 30-45 days.

Using the longer route, a team would sort through resumes and identify a short list, or 5-10 candidates, that might be a good fit. It would be up to the council to identify candidates it would want to hone in on and interview them.

While senior advisors won't give an opinion on specific candidates, Parker said they would help the council prepare questions if need be.

Background checks would also be the responsibility of the city either through staff or using a professional firm.

Parker also stated that councilors should not be communicating with candidates until they get into the formal interview stage.

The last question Parker gave the council was about the process, which he said had to be done in unity.

"If it does not fit, then it is not going to be successful for that individual or the City Council," Parker said. "It's kind of like a marriage."

The Marco Island City Council did not take any action Monday night but will discuss the program at its Aug. 6 meeting.

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