City of Marco Island employees feel grim about the future

Staff organizational climate survey reveals city's serious issues

A recent survey found that 25 percent of Marco Island city employees feel the city is moving in a positive direction, and even fewer believe city leaders are doing a good job.

The Marco Island City Council voted in late March to take the temperature of the city staff via a staff organizational climate survey.

Although some council members thought the survey was ill-timed, given the uncertainty surrounding the city manager search and the high amount of staff turnover the city has recently experienced, other members felt it was perfect timing for those same reasons.

"I think the high turnover ... is (a clear indicator) that we are not creating the climate that makes our staff want to stay," Council members Charlette Roman said in March, noting that one city department had lost six people in the last few months. "This high turnover is a problem, the root cause as to why we have challenges ... in so many areas."

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Some of the city's main issues, according to the survey, are unqualified staff, noncompetitive wages and understaffed departments. The Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department is especially understaffed, according to more than 80 percent of its members.

“We are highly understaffed for a population, such as the City of Marco Island, and we have not kept up with the growth in the city, in terms of staffing," one Fire-Rescue Department member wrote. "Many of us are expected to fill many roles and wear many hats, all the while working diligently to perform our jobs to the best of our abilities.”

Furthermore, only half of fire-rescue staff indicated that their department has a safe work environment, with multiple people mentioning mold in Fire Station 50 that led to ailments, including “station cough.”

“Fire-Rescue is well under-budgeted," a staff member wrote. "Equipment is in need of repair or replacement, bordering on the extent of compromising safety for not only staff but the community as a whole.”

The survey also revealed serious issues with the city's leadership, with the majority of city staff believing the city council members are disrespectful and antagonistic toward them, often in public forums.

“I feel that the entire city looks bad when councilors speak to employees in a condescending manner," one staffer wrote. "I have seen this numerous times during public meetings.”

Other comments suggested council members were trying to advance their own agendas, at times using intimidation and inciting fear of job loss in staff.

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City staff had similar concerns about Chief of Police Al Schettino, with multiple people saying Schettino often uses intimidation, undermines staff contracts and practices favoritism.

However, fear of repercussion was not limited to the Police Department; it received multiple mentions across the board by current and former staff, according to the survey.

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The survey also asked staff to identify the top three qualities they believe are most important in a city manager, and the results show they want someone honest, competent and forward-thinking.

Willoughby Enterprises, the company that conducted the survey, compiled a list of five recommendations for improvement:

  1. Review the city’s salary structure and make adjustments to attract and retain quality employees. 
  2. Provide additional training and professional development opportunities, including specific management training for supervisors.
  3. Ensure leaders at all levels are qualified, honest and acting in the best interest of Marco Island.
  4. Take steps to increase employee satisfaction and morale, with particular emphasis placed on nonsupervisory staff.
  5. Continue to elicit feedback from city staff.

Of the 228 full- and part-time staff, 138 completed the survey, for a response rate of 61 percent.