The Marco Island City Council meeting on March 5th saw councilors and parents alike praising Police Chief Al Schettino and his staff’s high priority response to adding additional protection to local schools on the island after the deadly shooting rampage in Parkland, Florida on February 14. Council would also go on to issue a proclamation in recognition of the heroic actions of two Marco officers who helped to save a despondent man’s life as he attempted to jump from the S.S. Jolley Bridge.
However, later in the meeting Councilman Larry Honig launched a direct attack against Police Chief Schettino, utilizing some aspects of an Employee Climate Survey, which was authorized in May of 2017.
Councilor Honig would quote from anonymous sources without indicating whether they were actively employed by the department, had left service within the department or had been dismissed. Honig would go on to disclose the survey had received more negative comments from the personnel within the police department than any other agency within the city.
Honig listed a litany of negative comments made on that survey, often saying: “These are not my words.”
Towards the end of his comments, Honig said, “This is not micro-managing, city council is going to do nothing.” His comments went on for 15 minutes and only dealt with the police department.
Councilor Joe Batte was the first to respond to Councilor Honig’s request to have the consultant review the results of the employee climate survey, as “ridiculous unnecessary busy work.”
“I’m very suspicious of the motivation behind this,” said Councilor Batte. “Plain and simple this is a bad idea at any time, especially now. Instead of bringing in others from outside, throw your support to the people we have,” continued Batte.
Councilman Bob Brown referred to a commentary written by Councilman Honig before the survey was initiated, wherein he called the police department “corrupt.” This would further call into question Councilor Honig’s motivation for the presentation he had made.
“I question whether we have supported our people in the right way. We too were seen as part of the problem,” said Brown, who went onto compliment all of the city employees.
Brown then turned to Chief Schettino and asked him if he’d like to respond.
“I would love to stand at that podium and address the lies that have been made against my officers and my agency,” said Chief Schettino, moving to the podium.
“The timing of this is suspect, as we’ve opened an investigation regarding the city manager, and now you choose to bring this up. Shame on you Councilman Honig, it’s a disgrace,” said Schettino, his voice cracking with emotion as he defended himself, his personnel and the department. The room erupted in applause for Schettino’s comments.
Chief Schettino would call out Honig for meeting with disgruntled employees, both present and past, to guide them in their responses to the survey.
“You have been attempting to undermine this department for years,” said Schettino. “You use a flawed climate survey, and anonymous responses with past and present employees, some of which were part of the 13 open internal investigations we had to clear when I first assumed command of this department. You made sure of their responses to that survey,” said Schettino.
“We have an outstanding police department of professional men and women that do a great job. Do we have disgruntled individuals? Of course we do. Do we have people we have had to discipline along the way? Yes we have, and unfortunately they aren’t happy,” said Schettino.
“You bring up favoritism, I call it ‘work-itisim,’ somebody that comes in every day and works hard, puts in their work, does extra and makes this a better community. That is what impresses me. Those are the people that get promoted in this department. The ones that volunteer, care and are dedicated to this community. We don’t need naysayers spreading untruths and rumors about this agency.
“Come in and look at anything we do; everything is above board,” said Schettino.
“To constantly take attacks from you, and you’ve done it with other staff members. The ‘Valentine Day Massacre,’ which you did know about, was an effort to set up another city employee to be fired and you knew it and that is in a chain of emails.
“This is a disgrace, it is a disgrace to lie and try to attack an agency that is doing good things. You are a disgrace to this council and to this community and are only trying to hurt this agency and community,” concluded Schettino.
Councilors Howard Reed and Charlette Roman both spoke to their confidence in the department.
Council Chairman Jared Grifoni attempted to support some of the points made by Councilor Honig in an effort to hire a $20,000 consultant to continue to review the department. The audience would react negatively to Grifoni’s criticism of Chief Schettino’s response to Councilman Honig’s comments.
During public comment one member after another came forward to support Chief Schettino and the department. “Mr. Honig you played your hand poorly tonight. What a disgrace that you dragged the department through the mud,” said Cantwell.
Dr. Robert McArdle, a 36-year retired veteran and the former Director of the N.Y. State Correctional System came forward to say the survey was flawed. “If you are not aggravating 50% of the people you’re not doing your job,” said McArdle. He made a number of points to substantiate his claim.
Former Councilor Ken Honecker came forward to suggest the money should be utilized to protect the children in local schools rather than this consultant.
Vernon Gerberth, a retired Lt. Commander from the NYPD came forward to commend the work done by Chief Schettino.
In the end, Acting Manager Guillermo Polanco advised council he had no intent moving forward on this issue as Councilmen Honig and Grifoni had requested.
Read more about this item and other business that came before council in the March 16th issue of the Coastal Breeze News or check back to www.coastalbreezenews.com for breaking news.