Marco residents, councilor speak up about Honig during City Council meeting
Marco Islanders have an opportunity during most City Council meetings to speak about items not appearing on the agenda.
People generally use this face-to-face time with council members for event announcements and to point out what they see as deficits or inefficiencies in their local government.
At Tuesday's meeting, Marco residents slammed Larry Honig, city councilor, after Naples Daily News reported he admitted being the only person who provided content to a website targeting council candidates as well as current and former city councilors.
The website in question, marcopolitics.com, appeared to be offline as of Jan 22.
"I am the only person providing content," Honig wrote to Florida Elections Commission (FEC) on Jan. 9 of last year after a resident filed a complaint against him. "There was no coordination of any kind with any candidate or campaign."
Honig's official response contradicted an earlier public statement.
"I own the domain, but I am not responsible for the website creation or the content," Honig previously said. "I own dozens of Marco-related domain names [...] and was approached by a group of citizens interested in using this one specifically."
"I let them take over the site. This group is concerned about corruption in the government and abuses in the police department, and they are afraid of retribution. Many of them have already been targeted."
In case you missed it: Marco councilor's official response to election complaint contradicts public statement
On March 27, the Federal Election Commission notified Regina Dayton, a Marco Island resident, that her complaint against Honig was 'legally insufficient.'
"The redlined editorial contained political analysis, fact-checking, opinion, and name-calling," wrote Tim Vaccaro, FEC's executive director. "However, in my opinion, it did not include anything that would amount to more than free political speech."
"The complaint appears to be based upon hearsay," Vaccaro wrote.
Dayton was one of two residents who spoke during the meeting against Honig's actions.
"My comments are not meant to be in opposition to a person but in support for what is right," Dayton said. "I once voted for Mr. Honig, and there is no denying his intellect nor the hours he devotes to city issues but this is a different matter."
Erik Brechnitz, City Council chair, interrupted Dayton's prepared speech.
"Mrs. Dayton, if it's not going to be about a specific councilor please do not name any councilors," Brechnitz said. "This is about policy issues."
"If this is gonna become an attack on someone … "
Dayton did not let Brechnitz finish the sentence.
"Oh no, sir," Dayton said. "And I think that if you let me finish you'll see that's my intent too."
"Clearly, Mr. Honig in his written response to the FEC now admits that he alone wrote the content of the website marcopolitics, which many Marco Islanders found repulsive after repeatedly denying this."
Brechnitz interrupted Dayton again
"Mrs. Dayton, this sounds like an attack to me," Brechnitz said.
In response, Dayton said it was not meant as an attack.
"It's what it sounds like," Brechnitz said. "I don’t want you to attack any personal councilor up here."
"Let’s not make it personal."
Dayton then continued uninterrupted for the rest of her speech.
"I was going to ask [...] that all of you consider a vote of no confidence for Mr. Honig because I wanted you to be the collective consciousness of our community," Dayton said.
After her turn at the podium, Dayton spoke with the Eagle about her exchange with Brechnitz.
"I never anticipated that response from Brechnitz," Dayton said. "If Mr. Honig's statements were considered freedom of speech, this should have been as well."
Ray Seward, a Marco resident, also spoke about Honig without specifically saying his name.
"I’m not here to attack anyone but I was attacked by one individual on this council," Seward said. "I was slandered and I was lied to."
"I feel I should have the right to confront that individual in public."
After a back and forth with Brechnitz, Seward said the individual should expect a letter from his attorney.
Seward later told the Eagle that Honig was the individual he was referring to.
Reed addresses 'elephant in the room'
Howard Reed, city councilor, said he came prepared to make a motion 'that would not please several people.'
"I was going to offer a motion that would have called upon this council to take stand on honesty one way or another," Reed said.
Reed, who was also targeted on the website, said he decided not to make the motion as planned.
"I’m gonna come down tonight on the side of unity," Reed said. "I don’t want to be the one that breaks the progress that this council has been making."
Reed did not mention Honig by name.
"I think everyone knows what I’m talking about," Reed said. "I don’t need to reiterate what’s behind this."
Quickly after the meeting was adjourned, the Eagle approached Honig to give him an opportunity to talk about what was said about him.
"No statements," Honig said.
Earlier this month, Honig called the revelation a "non-story and very old."
"I never denied owning the Marco Politics website, whose content was actual videos from public meetings of politicians and candidates who do not want to be held accountable for their words and actions," he wrote in a statement to the Naples Daily News. "Regina Dayton has cost Marco Island taxpayers over $250,000 on frivolous complaints against several councilors and city employees — and all of them have been dismissed."
Additional reporting by Devan Patel.