Former Marco Island City Manager Lee Niblock heads to trial next month

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Lee Niblock, former Marco Island city manager

Former Marco Island City Manager Lee Niblock will finally have his day in court next month.

A jury trial has been scheduled Feb. 11 for Niblock, who faces a misdemeanor battery charge that led to his ouster from the city.

More:Former Marco Island city manager turns himself in to face battery charge

The former city manager turned himself in to authorities and pleaded not guilty in April last year after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Niblock, 65, was accused of forcibly kissing and touching Marco Island Academy Principal Melissa Scott in January last year as well making unwanted and inappropriate verbal overtures.

Scott told investigators that after Niblock had driven her home following a Jan. 31 dinner meeting, he "grabbed her so that he could hug her and attempted to kiss her on the lips, but she turned her head and he kissed her on the cheek. Lee then pulled on her and asked for another kiss, but she refused and exited the car."

During Niblock's dinner with Scott, he was alleged to have offered to groom her to become the next city manager after he retired.

More:Fired Marco Island city manager Lee Niblock charged with battery in Alachua County

After the Marco Island Police Department and Collier County Sheriff's Office launched a criminal investigation into Niblock, the Marco Island City Council voted to place him on paid administrative leave in February.

An internal investigation determined Niblock had acted inappropriately over the course of his short-tenure and he was terminated with cause the following month for:

  • Claiming to confirm every finding of 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 Sheriff’s Office.
  • Appearing to plan a mass firing of city staff, which he referred to as the ‘St. Valentine’s Day massacre’ in an email to City Councilor Larry Honig.

From the date he was hired to his termination, Niblock's tenure spanned a little more than three months in Marco Island.

After the Marco Island complaint surfaced, a separate battery complaint was filed in Alachua County.

In the complaint, a woman accused Niblock of placing his hand on her thigh and lifting the hem of her skirt before trying to kiss her on the lips during a job interview in August 2017 while he was Alachua County manager.

While a jury will determine Niblock's fate, his professional career has already taken a hit.

The International City/County Management Association, one of the largest government credentialing organizations in the world, publicly censured and barred Niblock from its membership in November after determining he had violated its code of ethics.

The executive board cited violations relating to demonstrating the highest standard of ethical conduct and integrity of a public official, affirming social responsibility as a public servant and leveraging his position for personal gain or benefit.

More:Marco city attorney, council chairman deny pressuring victim in Niblock case

More:Monetary costs for failure to hire and retain permanent city manager exceed $156K

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