Marco police employees ramp up efforts to save chief's job

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Police Chief Al Schettino's executive assistant wrote on Facebook that his retirement was not voluntary.

It started with an estimated 13 uniformed Marco Island police officers, some of which were on duty, storming a Marco Island City Council meeting as a show of support for Police Chief Al Schettino.

But in the days and weeks since, police employees have continued to up ramp their efforts in an attempt to save Schettino's job.

Although Schettino tendered a letter Feb. 21 announcing his retirement and has remained silent, citizens and his own assistant, Sharon Kovacs, have come forward claiming the decision was forced upon him by City Manager David Harden.

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Schettino's tenure has been a mixed-bag: buoyed by low-crime numbers but riddled with embarrassing incidents. Those include the department finding multiple officers were having sex while on duty for years as well as the department keeping an officer on patrol whose credibility is so tarnished that the state attorney's office refuses to use him as a witness in criminal trials.

The latter became known to Harden, who's been on the job for the past three months, after the state attorney's office declined to prosecute a number of felony charges stemming from an incident where SWAT was called to the residence of Marco Island man, who had barricaded himself along with a cache of weapons.

More:Marco Island police chief intends to retire June 15

After Kovacs posted her message on Facebook along with an image of a person holding a "Keep The Chief" sign, she took it one step further Monday.

During the workday, she was visited by Marco Island resident Bob Rowe, who was already on city campus to conduct other business. Rowe confirmed to the Marco Eagle that he picked up four "Keep The Chief" signs from from Kovac's vehicle, which was parked off city property.

Marco Island Police Chief Al Schettino

Kovacs did not respond to request for comment.

With respect to Kovac's Facebook posts, Harden said, "This action alone, while disappointing, I consider within the bounds of free speech." 

Adding to the push from a portion of the community looking to retain Schettino, former City Councilor Bob Brown sent an email Tuesday to the sitting council criticizing the city for its treatment of Schettino.

In the email, Brown called Harden's demands "ludicrous" and stated Schettino was owed an apology.

Brown also reposted a letter to the editor critical of Honig on Facebook, which drew multiple responses from officers, including Bob Marvin, who called for councilors who supported Harden to be removed.

Marco Island police officer Bob Marvin's comments on Facebook page criticizing the city for forcing Police Chief Al Schettino to retire.

"I would like to see who supports that man so we can get them off the council," Marvin wrote. "Let's go for a re-vote before (any more) damage is done."

While Marvin's comments are political in nature, they would not appear to be a violation as shift assignments cross-referenced with the timestamp from his post showed he was not working as a police officer at the time.

Honig, who wrote a scathing guest commentary about the impact of keeping Schettino, defended his actions after being asked about Marvin's comments.

"I represent the entire city of Marco Island, not just the people falling in line behind the police chief," Honig wrote. "I have to be a voice for the constituents who constantly reach out to me because they are afraid or embarrassed by bad behavior in the police department.

"I am not doing this for a popularity contest, but because these citizens deserve to be heard. It is no small wonder they are afraid, given the threats hurled at me every time I speak up."

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