Collier County calls special meeting to select next county manager

Rachel Heimann Mercader
Naples Daily News

Collier County plans to select its next county manager at a special meeting Thursday morning. 

The decision to call the special meeting was made on the fly after each of the remaining six candidates gave presentations during the Commission's regular meeting on Tuesday, June 14. 

At the Board of Commissioner's May 10 meeting, deputy manager Amy Patterson was appointed acting manager following County Manager Mark Isackson's sudden resignation, which was announced the day prior.

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

More:Amy Patterson named acting Collier County manager after Mark Isackson quits

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

Amy Patterson (right) named acting county manager on May 10, 2022.

Isackson announced in January that he would retire July 1 because of COVID-related health concerns. Early last month he abruptly changed his departure date to May 13 amid disputes over his request to cash out his leave pay, according to a memo obtained by the Naples Daily News. 

It was also decided May 10 that each commissioner would self-schedule private interviews with the remaining candidates:

  • Dan Rodriguez, deputy county manager for Collier County (resume) 
  • Amy Patterson, acting county manager for Collier County  (resume)
  • George Yilmaz, head of the public utilities division for Collier County (resume)
  • Leonard Sossamon, interim city manager for Woodbury, New Jersey (resume)
  • David Puente Jr, deputy director at Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs (resume)
  • Steve Howard, county administrator for Camden County, Georgia (resume) 

Howard and Puente gave their presentations in person, while Sossamon did so on Zoom. All in-house candidates presented in person.  

Travel reimbursement information for the out-of-state candidates was not available Tuesday afternoon.

"The two candidates who traveled to Collier from out of state will be reimbursed for their travel expenses at a future date, so we do not have the costs to provide at this time," Human Resource Director Amy Lyberg wrote in an email to the Naples Daily News. 

Prior to the presentations at the June 14 meeting, the commissioners discussed the format of the candidate presentations and how much time they wanted to allow for questions from the board. 

In case you missed it:Collier County Manager Mark Isackson to resign in a week

Catch up:Collier reverses decision to use recruitment firm in search for next county manager

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

"I've already interviewed these people. Unless something new pops up today, I don't really have a need for additional questions or conversation," Commissioner Bill McDaniel said. 

"This is more of an opportunity for the public to hear who the board has to select from," he added. 

Commissioner Rick LoCastro agreed, saying, "I spoke to each candidate for an hour or more. And I asked all my questions, so unless they say something in their presentation that begs the questions, this is a chance for them to have the floor, have the mic, for us to shut up and have them make their final pitch on the heels of what should have been very long and complete interviews."

It was then decided that each candidate had a maximum of 10 minutes to give a presentation followed by five minutes for all questions and answers. 

Toward the end of the presentations, as commissioners went to a brief court reporter break, Commissioner Penny Taylor was caught on a hot mic asking McDaniel whether there was an intention to select a final candidate that day. 

Penny Taylor

A reporter with the Naples Daily News, who was watching the meeting live online, texted Taylor and McDaniel and asked what their plan was. 

When the meeting resumed, McDaniel acknowledged Taylor's question, saying: "After we went to break, the mics were still on. And you were heard asking the question as to whether or not we were going to make the decision today...So I think we should have some discussion about how we wish to proceed."

LoCastro spoke first, saying he preferred to "sleep on it" and make the decision at their budget workshop meeting this Thursday.

Did you know? Confidential records leaked from ex-double-dipping Collier deputy manager's office

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

AND:Disgraced Collier deputy manager resigns from secret lobbyist job; more Florida ties revealed, ethics experts weigh in

McDaniel said it would be a bad idea for them to make that kind of decision without giving proper notice to the public. "I'm ready today, but if you want to, as Commissioner LoCastro said, sleep on it, then I'm OK with that, too."

Collier County Commissioner Rick LoCastro speaks during a board meeting on May 11, 2021.

Commissioner Burt Saunders then said that he thought it would be a mistake to make any decision Tuesday because the agenda for Tuesday's meeting made "no indication that we're gonna make a decision today."

Taylor agreed, adding that now that the public has had an opportunity to hear the candidate's presentation, they could now weigh in if they wished to do so.

"We all met these candidates, but now the community, the public is meeting them," she said. "And I think there is an advantage there because if they so choose, the public can weigh in too. I'm always welcoming to that kind of input."

Commissioners agreed to call a special meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 16, to choose the next county manager. 

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