Marco city employee facing DUI charge had prior incidents city officials knew about
Lina Upham, purchasing and risk manager for Marco Island, has returned to work at City Hall, even though her arrest this month on a DUI charge was not the first incident brought to the attention of the acting city manager or City Council during her employment.
Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputies reported they arrested Upham after her vehicle crossed the median into opposing traffic and crashed into water near Collier Boulevard and Championship Drive on July 7. Her blood alcohol content was close to four times the legal limit, the arrest report states.
While her personnel file does not contain any disciplinary actions, public records show police summoned to check on Upham for another incident involving public intoxication; and she failed to submit to a urinalysis test after a car accident involving a city vehicle last year.
On June 6, 2017, then-chairperson Larry Honig emailed the council, City Attorney Alan Gabriel and acting City Manager Guillermo Polanco a copy of an anonymous letter he received through the mail that detailed an April 1, 2017, incident where police were dispatched.
“Then on top of that there is a person in a key position in finance over purchasing and risk management that was recently on a public beach on the Island, extremely intoxicated, and removed her bathing suit top and exposed herself,” the letter stated. “She obviously was not arrested.
“Any other woman or man for that matter would have been hauled off to jail immediately for indecent exposure. Apparently your ‘city manager’ and police chief chose instead to just sweep (it) under the carpet and make it go away. Apparently, this isn’t the first time she has been intoxicated in public.”
Upham did not respond to a request for comment.
A computer-aided dispatch report confirmed a call was placed to police after 4 p.m. because the caller was concerned for Upham’s well-being after witnessing her fall down. Officers responding to the call also noted that Upham was intoxicated but she and another man were waiting for an Uber to take them back to Naples.
Polanco forwarded Honig’s email to Police Chief Al Schettino, who responded to Polanco and Gabriel two days later with additional details.
Schettino disputed the assertion of a cover-up and stated “nothing was swept under the carpet,” noting he informed Polanco of the incident the day it happened at the Relay for Life event and that the case did not meet Florida State Statute requirements to charge Upham for incident exposure.
“Two very important elements were not met in this case,” Schettino wrote. “The individual intended the exposure or exhibition of his or her sexual organs or nakedness to be in a vulgar, lewd or lascivious manner and the exposure or nakedness was in a vulgar, (indecent), lewd or lascivious manner.”
Schettino also wrote that contact was made with the caller, Lee Thompson, whom Schettino said did not want to pursue it further.
Thompson, however, disputed Schettino’s email.
While Thompson confirmed he called out of concern for Upham’s well-being, he said an officer only contacted him to say that police made contact with Upham. Thompson also said he was able to view Upham’s interaction with police, whom he said were in close proximity and monitoring her as she walked towards Resident’s Beach.
Asked about the statements he made in his email, Schettino said that he only wrote what was relayed to him by the officers but reiterated that officers did not provide any special treatment for Upham.
No urinalysis completed after city vehicle crash
Marco Island police were also called into service last year after Upham was involved in a car crash on Sept. 12, 2017, while operating a city vehicle.
In a statement given to police, Upham said she was traveling southbound on Bald Eagle Drive when another vehicle pulled out of a line waiting for gas and made contact with the city vehicle.
The incident occurred as Marco Island city employees were all hands-on deck responding to the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Irma.
The crash report, which was generated on Sept. 21, 2017, and additional emails from Marco Island police employees, however, noted several deviations from city policy and procedure.
First, Upham reported that she was sideswiped by another vehicle several hours after the incident occurred, which prevented Marco Island police from getting an account from the other driver for its crash report.
Proper procedure dictates that employees involved in either a major or minor accident contact the police immediately.
Each Marco Island city vehicle contains a vehicle accident report kit that not only contains this information but informs employees that they must contact Upham if there is damage to a vehicle.
The form, which is available in plain sight on the Finance Department’s webpage, also states that supervisors are required to take his or her employees for drug and alcohol testing after accidents.
Upham requested the crash report from police records clerk Heather Comparini on Sept. 20, 2017, the day Autocraft Enterprises, Inc. estimated the damage to the vehicle at $5,580.75.
Comparini informed Upham that a report wasn’t made because the police didn’t have the other driver’s information.
Two days later, Sgt. Mark Haueter requested that the report be finished despite stating in an email: “Not sure if there is a urinalysis to include or not, but city policy was explained to Ms. Upham at the time she reported the crash.”
Officer Hunter Howell, who took the initial statement on Sept. 12, wrote an email back to Haueter and other police employees to explain the issues.
“I was brought into the MIPD station by a supervisor, James Inlow, to take a crash report of an (accident) that occurred earlier in the day,” Howell wrote. “Both parties were not present at the time I was told to take a report. I attempted to contact the other party multiple times that was involved in the accident with Ms. Upham but have failed to hear back. At this time, I still only have one side of what happened. My supervisor, Neil Giansanti, informed me to complete the crash report to the best of my ability. Also, I am aware that Ms. Upham was informed of city policy but I have not heard of any urinalysis or any type of testing done.”
Haueter responded to Howell, placing the blame for the issues on Upham.
“Please just complete what you can and submit it,” Haueter wrote back to Howell. “Ms. Upham should have contacted us immediately at the scene of the crash allowing us to hear both sides of the story, this certainly isn’t your fault.”
A urinalysis was never completed and the report was validated despite never speaking with the other driver.
Capt. Dave Baer wrote in an email that the standard for completing the crash report was met due to the police department attempting to contact the other driver.
While Baer confirmed that Upham was advised of the policy, he wrote that her response was not recorded as part of the investigation nor was it the responsibility of the police department to notify her supervisor.
Upham did not respond to a request for comment or questions as to the reason why city policies and procedures were not followed.
Polanco, who doubles as the finance director and is Upham’s supervisor, said that a urinalysis was not required per city policy because the accident was not “preventable damage.” He did not mention the response to the hurricane as a hindrance or excuse for why it was not done.
The personnel rules and regulations manual states testing needs to be done in cases of preventable damage when:
- property damage to city property, vehicles or equipment which, when combined and totaled is in excess of $1,000
- property damage by city property, vehicles, or equipment to non-city property, vehicles, or equipment regardless of cost.
The policy, however, contains a provision that testing needs to be done if “a determination of preventable or non-preventable accident cannot or is not made within a reasonable period following the accident or incident.”
Drug and alcohol testing can also be required when there is reasonable suspicion, which includes observable behavior, information or feedback, or a pattern of accidents.
Despite not being completed at the time of the accident, Upham’s demeanor was listed as “apparently normal” in the crash report.
At the time in which alcohol and drug testing needed to be done, police would not have been able to make that determination if the accident was preventable because Upham did not report the incident immediately so that the other driver’s account could be recorded.
Schettino said based on city policy, Upham should have been tested.
“It was the responsibility of her supervisor to ensure it got done,” Schettino said.