Marco Island City Council may approve new manager contract Monday

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
File: Victor Rios, Sam Young and Erik Brechnitz are sworn in after winning election to the Marco Island City Council

The Marco Island City Council is not slowing easing into the new year based on its agenda for Monday’s meeting.

After Chairperson Erik Brechnitz and City Attorney Alan Gabriel negotiated a contract with city manager candidate David Harden, the council will have an opportunity to discuss the contract and finalize his employment with the city.

The proposed contract with Harden, the former city manager of Delray Beach, calls for an annual salary of $180,000 that may increase or decrease based on his performance. Should the City Council need to terminate Harden’s contract for reasons other than misconduct or ethics violations, he may be eligible to receive a severance payment equal to the remaining amount on a residential lease up to $10,000.

Most of the terms in the proposed contract are similar to those offered to former City Manager Lee Niblock, who was fired in March last year for unethical actions that resulted in the State Attorney’s Office charging him with one count of misdemeanor battery and the International City and County Management Association banning him from their membership.

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While the selection of Harden was intended to be temporary, the City Council will also discuss how it intends to fill the position on a more permanent basis.

Brechnitz authored a white paper for Monday’s meeting to propose a potential timeline for the permanent city manager hiring process, calling it “the most important item.”

Also on Monday’s agenda, council will discuss its process for appointing members to boards and committees.

Prior to winning the election in November, Brechnitz and Councilor Sam Young spoke to the need to change the way appointees are made, stating that the process has become too political. Under the current system, each councilor is allowed his or her own appointments to boards and committees. 

In his suggestions to fellow councilors. Brechnitz said that he would like to see a process similar to the way a city manager is selected through the ranking of candidates by the entire council. 

Councilors Larry Honig, Charlette Roman and Young have also authored papers with ideas on the matter.

Council will also discuss the potential of separating code enforcement from the police department after it saying it has heard a number of complaints about a lack of enforcement or selective enforcement over the past year.

Councilor Victor Rios will lead the discussion and has pointed out two recent examples to illustrate the point. As a candidate that won reelection in November, other candidates had placed signs in swales and right of ways after hours and to his knowledge, no one was cited for the violations.

Rios also mentioned how Joe’s Barber Shop was cited for having too many chairs for the number of parking spaces available. Rios said that every other barber shop or nail salon would probably be in violation and yet no other citations were given. Eventually, the business was grandfathered in with changes to the city code after the city’s Planning Board determined it was in compliance but not before spending more than $20,000 in legal fees.

Rios’ suggestion is for code enforcement to report directly to the city manager and taken away from the supervision of the police department.

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