Florida Bar dismisses complaints against Marco city councilor, city attorney
The Florida Bar has dismissed complaints filed against Marco Island City Councilor Jared Grifoni and City Attorney Alan Gabriel over their conduct in the handling of battery allegations against former City Manager Lee Niblock.
Marco Island resident Regina Dayton filed the complaints against Grifoni and Gabriel last year, alleging both men violated their attorney oaths, rules and regulations of the Bar, its standards of conduct and the city charter.
In two separate letters to Dayton, Bar counsel Teresa Goodson wrote that there was insufficient evidence to prove either man had committed any violations of rules governing attorney conduct and that only a “court of competent jurisdiction” could determine whether each’s actions had violated state law.
After the state attorney’s office elected last year to charge Niblock with one count of misdemeanor battery, Grifoni and Gabriel came under fire as some city councilors and members of public believed they had tried to pressure Marco Island Academy Principal Melissa Scott from coming forward with her complaint.
Shortly thereafter, Bill McMullan spoke out against Grifoni at a May City Council meeting and announced his intentions to file complaints with the bar and ethic commission. Grifoni welcomed the complaints, remaining steadfast that they would be found to be frivolous.
At the following meeting, tensions reached a boil as the City Council cast a vote of no confidence in Grifoni after he sparred numerous times with then-Councilor Joe Batte and resisted calls to step down as chair.
The vote of no confidence, which Grifoni referred to as “frivolous” and “ineffective,” was purely symbolic in nature as Grifoni continued to wield the gavel until his term as chairman concluded following the November election. During that same November meeting, the vote of no confidence was overturned by the new council.
In Dayton’s complaints against Grifoni and Gabriel, she implored the Bar to listen to McMullan and Batte’s comments at previous meetings regarding their conduct and included speculative statements McMullan made on his website.
In response to the complaint, Grifoni’s counsel, Brett Geer, wrote “there is no credible evidence that Mr. Grifoni ever attempted to tamper with any witness or conceal anything.” Geer also noted that Grifoni was purely acting as a conduit between the two parties and at no time was acting as an attorney.
With the Bar’s decision, Grifoni echoed previous statements in which he was confident that any complaints would be dismissed and reiterated his desire to serve the citizens of Marco Island.
"I never doubted for a moment that this malicious attempt against my law license would be dismissed,” Grifoni said. “It is unfortunate when people try to poison the community with baseless complaints riddled with lies and misrepresentations. This is par for the course for a small and dwindling group of people.
“They launch frivolous attacks whenever they have a political axe to grind and they always fail. When exposed to objective review, their crumbling unfounded accusations fall apart like vampires in sunlight.”
While Dayton wrote in an email to the City Council that she did not expect the Bar’s decision, she said that she was prepared for it.
“I still believe what I wrote,” Dayton wrote in her email. “I took advantage of the opportunity presented by law to a citizen to seek a review confident that the best interest of our entire community would be served.”