Sailing community calls shenanigans on Marco staff after man's arrest for pulling weeds

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Rocky Cale, 75, poses outside of the community room at Marco Island City Hall on Monday, Aug. 20.

The expression on Rocky Cale’s face said it all as he donned an orange jumpsuit.

The shocked, 75-year-old Marco Island resident and head of the Marco Island Community Sailing Center was arrested Friday afternoon after a warrant was issued due to Cale removing weeds from the Mackle Park Lake more than two months ago.

Cale and five others from the Model Yacht Club were attempting to launch the jon boat to maintain the buoys in the lake that had been repositioned after a storm and were having trouble due to the overgrown weeds.

Cale was the only person cited and arrested, prompting some members of the community to question the motives of Samantha Malloy, manager of parks, culture and recreation, who first alerted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Martha Montgomery, left, and Samantha Malloy of the city staff give reports at a Marco Island Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meeting last year.

Malloy, however, was asked by the city to provide a timeline detailing her side of the story and has denied accounts that she has a vendetta against Cale.

City staff was going to give the report during Monday's council meeting, but those plans were shelved after Councilor Bob Brown became ill during the meeting, prompting an early adjournment.

In Director of Community Services Daniel Smith’s report that was released Tuesday, Malloy wrote that she was contacted June 4 by facility supervisor Martha Montgomery about large piles of vegetation that had been removed from the lake and were omitting an odor.

With Malloy unsure of how to proceed, she contacted the Code Enforcement Department, which recommended contacting FWC.

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After contacting FWC, Malloy said she contacted Cale because it was known that there had been issues with boats getting caught in the vegetation.

Unable to reach Cale by phone, Malloy sent a message to Cale asking him if he knew about the weed removal. Cale’s wife, Mary Lee, confirmed in an email that a text message was received.

After receiving the message, Cale went down to the lake to see Malloy, who was at a staff meeting, and to help with the disposal, which was confirmed by parks maintenance staff.

With FWC personnel on its way to meet with city staff later in the day, Malloy wrote that she texted Cale again.

Malloy said access to security camera footage was provided to FWC and Cale’s name was given due to him admitting that he had removed the weeds.

In an interview, Malloy said that the only reason Cale’s name was the only one given was that he admitted the action and she did not know who the others were. Malloy stated the security camera footage was of such low quality that no one was identifiable solely on the footage. 

After returning from vacation, Malloy said FWC asked to meet with city staff and sworn statements from her and Montgomery were taken on June 21. It was during the meeting that city staff were informed the State Attorney’s Office was moving forward with charges, Malloy wrote.

Prior to the city staff report being issued, the City Council received a number of emails crying out about injustice including from attorney Craig Woodward, who represented Cale and the sailing center during negotiations with the city. 

“Regardless of the prior issues between the parties, the behavior in targeting a citizen of this island by city staff for retribution is shocking and disgraceful,” Woodward wrote in an email to the City Council. “One might think that we live in a third world police state where government exercises its power against citizens instead of for them. The use of information gained while employed by the city for personal revenge is unethical no matter how you look at it.” 

In his email to the council, Woodward said the relationship became adversarial when members of the sailing club’s board resigned after being required to sign documents subjecting them to personal liability.

The sailing club was then locked out, preventing it from accessing the boats and equipment it provided to the city, and offer instruction to students, Woodward wrote.

After reviewing the city’s report, the Cales took issue with a number of items including what they were doing and the protocol previous administration had established with them.

“They (the Marco Island Model Yacht Club) were following protocol established with the previous parks manager for maintaining the little section of the lake that they use on Thursday and Sunday all year; that is, if they removed weeds they were to leave them in a pile for facilities staff to pick up,” Mary Lee Cale wrote in an email in response to the report. “They did not know that that protocol had changed nor, especially, that what they were doing was illegal, as the manager never met with them to discuss their activities after she took the job.”

Rocky Cale also said the group pulled the weeds, not just himself, and he was never asked to identify any of the parties. The city’s report also does not explain why it did not try to speak to all the parties, Cale said.

What’s even more perplexing for some members of the community is the weeds were being scheduled to be sprayed and destroyed by Earthguard according to a June 18 email from Montgomery to Russ Colombo.

Mary Lee Cale had to pay $1,000 to bail out her husband, whose next court date is scheduled for Sept. 12, but the actions of the city and poor communication have been difficult to take, she said.

“There were so many more reasonable ways that this could have been handled by a skilled, compassionate manager,” Mary Lee Cale wrote. “I'm sorry to say that Rocky has been a thorn in Samantha's side over the Marco Island Community Sailing Center (totally unrelated) for the past year and this can only be seen, to most who know him and know of this ongoing issue, as her opportunity to put him in his place. Mission accomplished ... at the sake of an upstanding citizen of Marco Island who has spent countless volunteer hours in support of Parks & Rec recreational programs.”