County Manager Mark Isackson resigns amid 'questionable' requests for paid leave

Rachel Heimann Mercader
Naples Daily News
Mark Isackson was selected in March to be the next Collier County manager.

Collier County Manager Mark Isackson plans to retire immediately, effective Monday afternoon. 

The announcement came in an email sent to county staff by Deputy County Manager Amy Patterson. The email did not provide a reason for the departure. He said last week that he intended to step down May 13.

Isackson has not responded to phone calls made by the Naples Daily News as of Monday afternoon.  

His sudden resignation comes three days after the Collier Clerk of Court's Office informed Isackson it is looking into his use of paid leave, according to a letter obtained by the Naples Daily News.

Previous coverage:Collier County Manager Mark Isackson to resign in a week

Collier manager search:Collier narrows county manager candidates to seven, three in-house

It also comes a day before county commissioners are set to vote on an item Isackson added to the consent agenda asking commissioners to approve what had been his plan to step down from full-time service later this week but remain on the payroll using contractual leave until his planned July 1 retirement.  

The May 6 letter sent to Isackson from Collier Clerk Crystal Kinzel addresses Isackson's "questionable" requests to be paid for accrued leave before and after he sent a memo on May 4 outlining the reasons he had planned to quit May 13, two months earlier than his planned retirement date in July.

Isackson explained that his health has continued to deteriorate while he struggles with post-COVID complications.

Mark Isackson retirement:Collier County manager announces retirement after his battle with COVID-19

According to a memo, Isackson wrote to commissioners Monday, his decision to immediately resign is due to his disagreement with Kinzel's letter. 

"Considering the Clerk's communication dated May 6, 2022, regarding my employment agreement and the County Attorney's concurrence with her position, there is no reason for me to continue full-time employment with Collier County Government. As a result, I am officially retiring from service with Collier County effective immediately on the date of this communication," Isackson wrote. 

He added that he will not be available for any further official consultation or communication with the Board.

"The organization needs to move on, and any further distractions are pointless," the memo continues. "There are no words that can describe this turn of events nor my disappointment, and I will not prolong any further involvement with Collier County Government under these circumstances having served the organization proudly and with distinction for over 18 years."

Mark Isackon's pay called into question

In his May 4 memo, Isackson said his intention was to remain on county payroll in a consulting capacity until his official retirement and that he would "be utilizing contractual, accumulated universal leave with any remaining post-July 1 balance being disbursed via my final paycheck."

According to Isackson's contract, unused universal leave will be paid at his current rate of salary upon termination, resignation or contract expiration. Isackson earned an annual salary of $230,000.

Kinzel indicates in her letter that concerns related to Isackson's leave pay requests were first discovered in March. 

Crystal Kinzel

Scott Callahan fired:Collier County deputy manager fired; double-dipping as secret lobbyist, documents reveal

The main issue is that the human resources department has been approving Isackson's payment requests classified as accrued "hours of sick leave," something he was eligible to use when he was a staff employee.

When Isackson became county manager, he became a contracted employee. As part of his contract negotiations, he was credited with the carryover of 60% of eligible accrued sick leave days into a universal account in addition to his accrued vacation. 

This discrepancy of Isackson drawing from hours of sick leave he accrued before a portion of it was transitioned into his universal leave bank was brought to Isackson's attention in March, the letter indicates.

"As you know, the Office of Inspector General has questioned the use of 472 hours of sick leave after the conversion to universal leave in discussion with you and (Director of Human Resources) Amy Lyberg since March 22," Kinzel wrote in her letter.

"According to your contract, these hours should have been recorded as Universal Leave."

Universal leave is an option that is not offered to county employees without a contract.

In other news:Confidential records leaked from ex-double-dipping Collier deputy manager's office

Under his contract, he accrues an additional 30 days of universal leave per year on a monthly basis of 2.5 days a month. He has the option to sell back portions of earned universal leave on a periodic basis, and on an annual basis he gets paid for all hours of accrued leave that exceed 360 hours.

Not using the proper leave classification may result in an employee receiving less or more money than they are supposed to receive. In Isackson's case, he requests in his consent agenda item to cash in "approximately 350 hours of contractual accumulated universal leave" remaining.

However, according to Kinzel, reclassifying the 472 hours of sick leave to universal leave means that Isackson has a deficit in his universal leave balance of more than 100 hours.

Mark Isackson was selected in March to be the next Collier County manager.

She added that she consulted with the County Attorney's Office and that Deputy County Attorney Scott Teach and County Attorney Jeffrey Klazkow are in agreement with this interpretation.

The letter references two other times Isackson attempted to request payment of accrued paid leave, both of which were denied by Kinzel. For the pay period of April 9 and April 22, he requested payment for 21 hours. 

The second time was for the previous pay period of March 26 to April 8 when he requested to be paid out 300 hours, which was related to his contractual terms of leave hours above 360. "This was communicated with Mrs. Lyberg and she indicated she planned to discuss the matter with you," Kinzel wrote.

Kinzel ended the letter by saying, "Until this matter is resolved, we will be unable to make further payments of Universal Leave."

Connect with Government Watchdog Report Rachel Heimann Mercader: @racheyy_marie (Twitter), rachel.heimann@naplesnews.com, or cell: 239-359-7948