CCSO: No timetable for Marco Island city manager battery investigation
The Collier County Sheriff's Office investigation into an allegation that Marco Island City Manager Lee Niblock committed battery is ongoing, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said, and there is no timetable for its completion.
Marco Police Chief Al Schettino emailed the Marco Island City Council and city attorney on Feb. 16 informing them of the battery allegation, which the department received Feb. 6.
He also told them that the Sheriff's Office will be in charge of the investigation because Niblock oversees the Marco Police Department.
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."
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.
Scott, the principal of Marco Island Academy, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Chris Lombardo, Scott's attorney, said his client is trying to let the process play out with as little interference as possible.
"We’re trying not to interfere with the investigation or influence it in anyway. We want to stay as neutral as we possibly can over the situation, and we have faith in the Marco Island City Council and Collier County Sheriff's Office," he said.
Niblock, 63, has been put on leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation. The Marco Island City Council met last week and voted 6-1 to suspend Niblock, who began his job as city manager in December.
At the beginning of the Feb. 20 council meeting, Niblock denied the allegation but asked the councilors for a leave of absence until the investigation is closed.
“I very much deny what is being said; however, I believe that for the greater good for this city, it’s my duty and ethical responsibility to take a leave of absence,” he said.
Niblock's lawyer, Sawyer Smith, said Tuesday that Niblock is looking forward to getting back to work.
“While my client rejects the assertion that he has done anything improper or illegal, he believes that it was best to voluntarily step aside and to allow the investigative process to work," Smith said. "Mr. Niblock intends to cooperate fully with any investigation, and very much looks forward to returning to the job and continuing the hard work he was hired to do for the good people of Marco Island.”
The City Council voted 5-2 in a special meeting in November to hire Niblock as city manager. The council began its search for a new city manager in February 2017 after former City Manager Roger Hernstadt resigned on Feb. 6.
Niblock, of Maquoketa, Iowa, was the county manager of Alachua County from 2014 until his dismissal in September because of differing views between him and the commission.
He earned a bachelor's degree in geography/resource planning from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, a master's degree in recreation and public administration from the University of Iowa, and a doctorate in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.
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