Trial put off in former Marco Island city manager's case
The trial of former Marco Island City Manager Lee Niblock has been delayed as the state attorney's office and his legal counsel appear to be close to reaching a plea agreement.
Niblock's trial on the charge of misdemeanor battery was scheduled to begin Monday, but his attorney Sawyer Smith asked for the case to be put off for a few weeks due to the pending agreement.
"I think we're finished with it," Smith told Collier County Circuit Court Judge Michael Provost.
Smith said he was going to meet with Niblock, who was not present in court, and his other attorneys in Gainesville later in the day to discuss the case.
Niblock turned himself into authorities last April after a warrant was issued for his arrest due to allegations that he made inappropriate physical and verbal overtures to Marco Island Academy Principal Melissa Scott in January.
During a dinner meeting with Scott, Niblock was accused of forcibly hugging and kissing her as well as using his position unethically.
According to the arrest report, Niblock offered to groom Scott to become Marco Island's city manager once he had retired.
Once the allegations surfaced, Niblock was placed on paid administrative leave in February 2018 only to be terminated the following month by the City Council for cause.
An internal investigation found that Niblock had acted unethically during his 3-month tenure as city manager for:
- Claiming to confirm allegations made in an internal climate survey
- Interviewing a job candidate at a restaurant and ordering wine
- Demanding the battery investigation into him be sent to the highest level of the Sheriff’s Office.
- Appearing to orchestrate a mass employee firing, which he referred to as the ‘St. Valentine’s Day massacre' in an email.
While the Collier County Sheriff's Office investigated the Marco Island battery complaint, a second allegation of battery was lodged last March against Niblock in Alachua County, where he previously was the county manager.
In that complaint, Niblock was accused of placing his hand on a job candidate's thigh, lifting the hem of her skirt before trying to kiss her on the lips in September 2017.
Although court proceedings have dragged on for nearly a year, Niblock's actions were grounds for the International City and County Management Association to publicly censure him and ban him from their membership for ethics violations.
Niblock's next court appearance has been scheduled for March 6.