Sunday, January 16, 2022

Council Has Light Agenda

City Attorney Alan Gabriel updates council on the pending discrimination suit.

Based upon qualifications and their presentations, the final three respondents to the RFP for award of a contract for consulting services for Nutrient Source Evaluation Services, were brought forward at the December 2 meeting of the Marco Island City Council. 

At that meeting council would support staff’s recommendation for moving forward to have the city manager negotiate a final contract with the successful firm, Environmental Research and Design of Orlando, Florida.

City Manager Michael McNees would make it clear that this was his top priority and he would be expediting the negotiations so the contract could be approved without delay and the work begun.

Under citizen comments, David Rasmussen would comment that the cause of the issue dealt with homeowners and businesses themselves. “We dump over three million gallons of nutrient rich water each day on the island,” said Rasmussen, as he referred to the application of re-use water all over the island.

Council would approve the suggestions of staff by a 6-0 vote. Councilor Charlette Roman was absent.

Burrowing Owl Incentive Grant

Council during its 2019-2020 budget negotiations set aside $5,000 for a test program to provide citizens with grants to allow burrowing owls to nest on their property. The program was presented by Councilor Jared Grifoni with the cooperation of Florida Wildlife Commission to develop a Safe Harbor Program to protect the species.

The burrowing owl is considered an endangered species here in Florida. It is hoped that programs such as this might stabilize their population as vacant lots are developed. Council would approve the conceptual idea of the program at their Monday night meeting and requested that the City Attorney bring back an appropriately worded document to allow for its adoption.

Photos by Steve Stefanides | The city will be investing in wrapped traffic control boxes.

City to Invest in Wrapping Traffic Control Boxes

Shelli Connelly, a member of the Beautification Committee addressed council as to the merits of the project and answered questions.

Councilor Howard Reed would question whether we would be attempting to impose a small section of the community’s beliefs. He was also concerned about limiting visual clutter. “I do however hope that my concerns are not founded in fact,” said Reed after the meeting.

The program passed 5-1 with Reed dissenting.

Discussion on Creating a Parks Foundation

The conceptual nature of such a foundation was the brainchild of Chairman Erik Brechnitz. He saw it as a vehicle to tap into philanthropic giving to improve Veterans Community Park and other parks around the island. The creation of the 501(C)(3) foundation would allow for tax deductible donations and allow competing for those types of donations.

An ordinance to create such an entity will now move forward and be brought back for consideration. 

City Attorney Recommends Settlement

Photos by Steve Stefanides | The city will be investing in wrapped traffic control boxes.

City Attorney Alan Gabriel on October 24 met with city council in closed session to discuss the discrimination case brought against the city by former police records clerk Heather Comparini. Ms. Comparini was at the center of claims of the leaking of confidential information concerning charges made against former City Manager Lee Niblock by former Police Chief Al Schettino.

Comparini claimed she was a victim of a “hostile work environment” created by Schettino, as he attempted to have her dismissed for allegedly leaking the information concerning the impending investigation regarding Niblock.

Niblock would eventually be dismissed from his position by council action for his ethical lapses and violation of the International City Managers’ Code of Ethics. The entire incident thrust the city into many months of turmoil regarding the case.

Comparini had originally filed a claim of discrimination with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) last December. That complaint was dismissed without foundation by the Commission.

After that complaint was dismissed, in September Comparini filed suit against the City of Marco, the Marco Island Police Department and Chief Schettino for gender discrimination. 

In their Executive Session meeting in October, Gabriel would lay out options and seek council’s guidance in regard to settling the case. During meetings with local Attorney Neil Snyder, who has represented Comparini regarding the issue, they arrived at a tentative agreement within the guidelines set by council in that closed session meeting.

At the council meeting this week Gabriel sought, and received permission from council to proceed to settle the case, but without revealing details to the public or council in an open and public session.

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