Fired Marco Island City Manager Lee Niblock faces second battery accusation
Marco Island City Manager Lee Niblock has been put on leave with pay pending the outcome of a Collier County Sheriff's Office investigation into an allegation that he committed battery.
Fired Marco Island City Manager Lee Niblock, the subject of a Collier County Sheriff's Office battery investigation, also is being investigated by Gainesville police after being accused of battery.
According to the Gainesville police complaint, Niblock met Jessica Hurov, managing director of The Hippodrome Theater in Gainesville, at a coffee shop June 10 to discuss a “future job opportunity." At the time, Niblock was the Alachua County manager.
Niblock then offered to drive Hurov to various locations in the county that were relevant to the potential job.
While in the car, Niblock placed his hand on Hurov’s thigh and lifted the hem of her skirt, according to the complaint filed Wednesday. Hurov told police that Niblock said he “loves it when she wears short skirts and shows off her legs."
Niblock also made multiple references to his wife being out of town, calling himself a "bachelor for the weekend,” the complaint said. He then referred to their meeting as a date.
Hurov told police that when the two returned to Hurov's parked car, Niblock again placed his hand on her thigh and tried to kiss her on the lips. Hurov ducked, and Niblock ended up kissing her temple, the report said.
Hurov stated to police that she did not want Niblock to touch her at any point during their interaction. She declined to comment Thursday afternoon.
Gainesville police issued the sworn complaint to the State Attorney’s Office on Wednesday and recommended a charge of simple battery. According to Florida law, a person commits battery when he or she "actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other."
Two months after the incident, Alachua County commissioners fired Niblock for differing views.
The Marco Island City Council hired Niblock in November. His first day was in December.
On Monday the council unanimously voted to fire Niblock with cause, including interviewing a female job candidate at a restaurant and ordering wine, the city attorney told councilors.
It is unclear whether that allegation is related to the battery accusation being investigated by the Collier Sheriff's Office.
The Sheriff's Office is in charge of the investigation because Niblock oversaw the Marco Police Department, which received the battery allegation against Niblock in February.
According to the initial report from the Sheriff's Office, Melissa Scott, 41, told police the battery occurred Jan. 31 in a car near Scott's home on Marco Island. The report provides no other details about what happened.
Councilman Howard Reed said he gave Niblock an opportunity to explain his side of the story and that he became convinced that Niblock had acted inappropriately
"I was convinced that regardless of the outcome of the legal investigation, based entirely on what he revealed to me, freely of his own will and in his own words, he had violated the trust that we had placed in him, and it was irrevocable," Reed said.
Niblock’s attorney, Sawyer Smith, said Monday that he plans to fight the decision to fire Niblock. He also said he is aware of the battery complaint filed in Gainesville.
"We are looking into the issue in Gainesville and will address it accordingly," he said. "At this time we are unable to comment further."
Niblock, who did not attend Monday's meeting and could not be reached to comment Thursday, will not receive a severance package.
However, since the council did not give him 30 days' notice before dismissing him, he will receive 30 days' pay. He also might be entitled to any unused personal leave. Niblock's annual salary was $185,000.