Saturday, June 23, 2018

Leave of Absence Voted for Manager


City Manager Lee Niblock addresses the council, his attorney pictured left. Photo by Steve Stefanides

City Manager Lee Niblock addresses the council, his attorney pictured left. Photo by Steve Stefanides

The last meeting of the Marco Island City Council was one which began as a somber event and centered around an allegation of “battery” concerning the newly appointed City Manager, Dr. Lee Niblock.

Niblock voluntarily suggested that he step aside as he approached the podium with his attorney at his side. After his suggestion, it was Councilor Bob Brown who moved that Niblock be terminated. That motion would be seconded by Councilor Larry Honig.

Both councilors agreed that Dr. Niblock would have a hard time moving forward to govern or interact within the community. Their feelings would be secondary to the majority of the remaining members of council, who urged caution in moving forward with termination, before first allowing due process to move forward. They would, however, agree to a leave of absence, rather than termination.

The motion to terminate would fail on a 5-2 vote, with only Brown and Honig voting to follow through to terminate Dr. Niblock’s employment. A second motion to place him on leave would pass 6-1 with only Honig voting against allowing Niblock to go on leave.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office will handle the investigation on the request of Marco Police Chief Al Schettino, now that the written allegation has been made by the alleged victim and all relevant evidence has been turned over to their office. Plastic Beachside Straws Banned

In an effort to help protect the environment and wildlife, the council moved 5-2 to ban the use of plastic straws from any establishment on the beach side of Collier Boulevard. Straws made from other materials that are biodegradable will still be allowed.

The Beach Advisory Committee championed the effort to ban the use of those items over the last several years, first hoping to have establishments voluntarily curtail their use.

Councilor Howard Reed would question how effective this would be as many folks purchase items on the other side of Collier Boulevard and might bring those across the boulevard and continue to inflict the damage to the environment and to wildlife. Both he and Chairman Jared Grifoni believed it was subjecting only one group of potential offenders, might be too far-reaching, and the ordinance not well written.

The board would vote 5-2 to adopt the ordinance, with Reed and Grifoni as no votes. Zoning Certificate and Parking

The board would continue to grapple with the issue of parking when Councilor Victor Rios brought up the issue of businesses failing to comply by not obtaining the necessary zoning certificates. Only then did Councilor Rios feel that we could adequately ascertain the scope of the parking issues.

“We don’t have the data to support anything,” said Rios, “The businesses didn’t respond.”

Councilor Rios believed that we should put some “teeth” into the request. “I hate to use that but sometimes this is the only way to get data,” said Rios.

“I don’t see any benefit to it; it is the heavy hand of government and I’m against it,” said Councilor Honig.

All businesses are required to have a zoning certificate prior to opening their doors.

Council Chairman Grifoni suggested that if someone was violating seating or other safety issues that it would be Code Enforcement’s job to move on those violations. COPCN Language Debate

Council continues to debate the “language” which will be utilized in the upcoming August referendum for citizens to vote on whether Marco should proceed with taking responsibility for its own ambulance service. This would mean moving away from the present county service and assuming those costs.

On a number of occasions, City Attorney Alan Gabriel has cautioned that the language used may not be construed to “sell the issue,” but must be neutral.

Councilors Reed, Rios, and Charlette Roman and have been pushing for full transparency regarding costs. Councilor Honig has also pushed for the voter to be fully cognizant of the potential for an increase in taxes.

Councilor Joe Batte attempted to school his fellow councilors on the history of why we voted for our own police department. “I support this because we don’t know what the county is going to do in the future,” said Batte. “I want to insure that ambulance and the quality of service we have today will be there for me tomorrow and five years from now,” commented Batte.

Councilors will continue to provide the City Attorney with suggested wording for the referendum language and he will come back at the next meeting with a revised draft of language for further discussion.

The next meeting of the Marco Island City Council is scheduled for 5:30 PM on Monday, March 5 at council chambers, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

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