Marco Council moving forward with program to find interim manager

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
The Marco Island City Council has voted 5-2 in favor of working with the FCCMA on placing an interim city manager through its senior advisor program. The Council will select semi-finalists at its Aug. 20 meeting.

The Marco Island City Council has opted to utilize the Florida City and County Manager Association’s senior advisor program to help find an interim manager.

The Council voted 5-2 Monday night in favor of a timeline proposed by Vice-Chair Charlette Roman that would not only allow the council to select semi-finalists at its Aug. 20 meeting but set up a vote to place an interim manager by Sept. 4.

“My experience has been that things are not getting better,” Roman said. “They are getting worse. This Council and the community desperately needs a qualified, professional city manager to make our government effective, performance-based and citizen-oriented.”

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The senior advisor program is a free service offered through the FCCMA that offers services like:

  • 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.

Ken Parker, one of the nine senior advisors, will help the city through the process and began forwarding resumes of interested candidates and managers in transition to the council on Tuesday.

Over the past few years, there has been a revolving door in the city government’s top position and that was swung into effect again this year after the council voted to terminate Lee Niblock on March 19 after a little more than three months in the position.

While the Collier County Sheriff’s Office investigated allegations of battery against Niblock, whom was later charged and has pleaded not guilty, it was discovered that Niblock had taken a number of actions that were deemed actionable.

Those actions included:

  • Handling of an employee climate survey.
  • Interviewing a female job candidate at a restaurant and ordering wine.
  • Demanding that the battery investigation be sent to the highest level of the sheriff's office.
  • Sending an email that referred to the St. Valentine's Day massacre.

In the meantime, Finance Director Guillermo Polanco has served as the acting city manager although he has indicated he is not interested in filling the duties permanently.

Despite voting in favor of seeking a search firm to find a permanent manager, the Council did not have enough votes to hire any of the firms that responded to a request for proposals.

Vice-Chair Charlette Roman, however, introduced an alternative way to provide more stability to the government through the senior advisor program.

As they have done so in the past, Councilors Bob Brown and Howard Reed opposed the proposal citing a number of reasons.

Brown suggested that the new council seated after the November election make the decision, but Roman responded by saying that it “kicking the can down the road.”

Reed’s opposition to the proposal mirrored his previous beliefs that the council was moving too quickly and not providing itself enough time to perform due diligence. Reed also said that it would take an interim manager several months to get up to speed when Polanco was doing an admirable job managing the city.

While Councilor Larry Honig refrained from making specific comments about Polanco’s performance, Roman pulled no punches about the level of service in asking to address the citizens of Marco Island.

“The reason you are waiting eight weeks or more for permits is because you do not have a city manager working on your behalf,” Roman said. “The reason you cannot get emails answered, phone calls answered after weeks and months for some departments or obtain requested information in a timely manner is because you don’t have a city manager on your behalf [...] and the reason that our volunteers that sit on our advisory committees are having difficulty getting answers, getting support from staff to do the important work that this council asks you to do is because you don’t have a city manager working on your behalf.

“[...] Little will improve until we get a qualified, experienced city manager, whether it’s called interim or short-term or we just use the term city manager. It’s hard to image this city in 21 days will make a major decision on whether we’re going to add something else, city ambulance service, without a professional, qualified city manager working on your behalf.”

Councilor Joe Batte, who supported the motion, said he was taken aback and offended by Roman’s comments as he offered support for the job Polanco has done in an interim basis.

“You and the new council probably won’t be able to pick anybody better than Gil Polanco,” Batte said. “I’m really taken aback by your battering.”

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