Monday, October 25, 2021

Council Meeting a Mixed Bag

At the recent Marco Island City Council meeting, councilors celebrated the twenty 28-year career of Division Chief Tom Bogan with a proclamation honoring him. Bogan’s biological family and fire department family looked on as Chairman Erik Brechnitz read the official document into the record. Bogan’s last official day was April 22, and when he walked out of the building at 7 AM on Tuesday April 23, he hung up his gear for the last time. (Read more about Tom Bogan’s retirement here.

One of the capstones of Tom Bogan’s career involved the design and acceptance of the city’s fire/rescue boat which is housed behind the newly-built Station 51 at Walker’s Marina on Elkcam Circle. Bogan was a vital part of the design and specification writing for that craft, as well as training personnel in its operation.

“I’m just proud to have been part of such a great organization,” said Bogan.

Support, as Well as Criticism, For Police Chief

Supporters of Police Chief Al Schettino came out in force at the April 15 meeting of the Marco Island City Council. The chief was requested to resign his position in a meeting with Interim City Manager David Harden in late February, 45 days after Harden’s arrival.

Harden accepted Schettino’s request to stay on until June 15, which would mark his ten-year anniversary with the department.

When Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz called the meeting to order, he advised the packed chambers of the details concerning personnel actions including the restrictions on council intervention. Brechnitz clearly stated those restrictions and moved forward.

Marco Island citizen Richard Blonna was the first to speak. Blonna complimented both Chief Schettino and Councilor Larry Honig for their service to the community. He called for respect for both men while requesting that Chief Schettino be allowed to retire and that the controversy surrounding Councilor Honig be allowed to subside as he finishes his last term in office.

A guest commentary by Councilor Honig in a local publication was clearly on the minds of several audience members, including resident Joe Granda. Granda called out Honig for what he called were “the lies and innuendos” which he stated were part of the guest commentary. He also pointed out that Councilor Honig was incorrect in saying the Police Foundation did not purchase the signs that were popping up around the island, supporting both the police chief and the department itself.

Alex Popoff came forward with criticisms about Schettino’s management of the department. Irrespective of some of the inaccuracies of Popoff’s statements, the conduct of the audience was initially respectful. However, that was short-lived, when Popoff stated, “People say they are comfortable with their children on Marco Island; I ask them, you’re right, no one will rape them, except for the police department themselves.” That comment resulted in a major outcry from those in attendance. Despite Chairman Brechnitz’s efforts to control the outbursts, they peppered the remainder of Popoff’s comments to council.

Chairman Brechnitz continued his attempt to maintain order and limit ongoing argumentative exchanges between the audience and Popoff. But those exchanges continued, even as Popoff left the room, with those seated outside the main portion of the council chambers.

It would be former councilor Joe Batte who would come forward and plead with the councilors to lead and not “hide behind the charter,” a reference to a provision which Chairman Brechnitz had explained at the beginning of the meeting.

Chief Al Schettino’s wife, Carol Schettino came forward to speak about her husband and detail a number of insights as to why she and close to 200 supporters were standing before council on that Monday evening. She did so, not to plead for his job, but instead to have entered a number of facts into the record that were not previously heard.

Emotional and shaken, Carol Schettino concluded her remarks and moved from the podium to the rear of the room. Out of sight of the city staff and councilors, she was met by her husband and daughter as the meeting progressed and returned to its regular agenda.

On several occasions, Interim City Manager Harden has commented that he stands by his decision on the matter.

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