It has been almost one year since events were put in motion that embroiled the Marco Island community in an embarrassing controversy regarding the community’s newly-hired city manager and his alleged unwanted advances against the Principal of the Marco Island Academy, Ms. Melissa Scott.
At a hearing today in the Collier County Superior Court, before Judge Michael Provost a date for trial was set for February 11 and 12 to hear the charges against Dr. Lee Niblock for First Degree Misdemeanor Battery. A conviction involving the charge of “battery” could carry with it a possible one-year jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.
Niblock has already been stripped of his International City/County Management Association (ICMA) membership by that organization.
The events leading up to this began early in February when Dr. Lee Niblock approached Ms. Scott at a community function and asked her to accompany him to his vehicle to discuss a possible position within city hall. That position was being advertised as Director of Communication and Governmental Affairs and had the potential of being compensated at the rate of $118,300 annually with about a 30% benefit package, which would put it around $154,000.
Niblock would then invite Scott to dinner to discuss the matter further; she would respond that she would prefer to meet instead for lunch, but he would insist on dinner due to his schedule. She would agree and they would continue that discussion over dinner one evening, however those discussions failed to produce any agreement. He would even suggest that they have wine and cheese one evening at the residence he leased on the island, while his wife was out of town, which she rejected.
On the way home from that meeting Scott reported that Nibock made unwanted physical advances on her, which she rebuked. She reported that after that he attempted to increase the monetary enticement to have her reconsider his offer. The evening would end, but he continued to call and text Scott and even began to leave her belligerent text messages. Scott reported that Niblock drove by her residence on at least one occasion, causing her to be alarmed at the brashness of his continued advances.
Because this incident involves the offer of employment within the city and the currying of sexual favors, it falls under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Nationally, 79% of those victims are women, however 21% are men. The alleged behavior is also illegal under Florida State Statues regarding Sexual Harassment.
Further, the alleged actions fall under The U.S. Equal Opportunity and Employment Acts in as the advances were tied to an offer of employment and meet the definition of sexual harassment.
Scott feared an escalation of the harassment and reported the matter to Marco Island Police Chief Al Schettino and her supervisor at MIA, Jane Watt, Chairperson of the Marco Island Academy Board.
Schettino turned the matter over to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) for an independent investigation. On February 20, 2018 Niblock addressed the Marco Island City Council and proclaimed his innocence. He requested a paid leave of absence, which council granted.
The issues of who knew what and when continued to grow within the community. In an attempt to move the city forward, and based upon more information being brought forward, on March 19, 2018 council voted to terminate Dr. Niblock’s contract with cause, for violations of the ICMA Code of Ethics.
On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, the State Attorney’s Office issued a warrant for the arrest of Dr. Niblock, based upon the CCSO’s investigation. The charge of battery is defined under Florida law as any actual and intentional touching or striking of another person against that person’s will (non-consensual).
Prior to that decision, a complaint was lodged against Niblock in Alachua County based upon a similar allegation. The Alachua complaint similarly involved allegations of Niblock making a woman an offer of employment and unwanted advances towards her. The State Attorney’s Office still has that case before it.
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