Monday, December 6, 2021

Nominations for Planning Board Create Controversy

Photos by Steve Stefanides


What should have been a respectful process to approve a councilor’s appointment of his choice to one of the city’s advisory boards, instead resulted in a candidate for one of those seats on the city’s Planning Board to be criticized for his electioneering practices. Another individual seeking one of those seats on the same board may have had similar issues in his past, and also the history of unsuccessfully supporting a fouryear time out after leaving Council before being eligible for such an appointment. 

Newly seated City Councilors Blonna and Irwin condemned the tactics utilized by former Planning Board member Edward Issler for his attacks on a slate of candidates that included Blonna, Irwin and Grifoni during the election cycle in 2020. Although Grifoni did not participate in the disparaging remarks regarding Issler’s character and the campaign tactics he utilized during this last electionGrifoni did cast his vote not to approve the appointment of Issler. This may have been the first time in the history of the city that a sitting councilor was denied the right to his or her choice for an appointment to a board position. 

Issler has served for four years on the Planning Board, an appointment of then City Councilor Howard Reed in 2017. Reed chose not to run for a second term, as did Charlette Roman. Reed was part of a slate which saw Jared Grifoni, Larry Honig and Charlette Roman elected to the Council in 2016. Issler was a big part of the ongoing negative campaigning on the part of that slate which defeated the then incumbents seeking reelection.  

Some of the issues hotly debated during that election cycle included the proposed development of boutique hotel at the corner of Park Avenue and West Elkcam, and the passage and eventual rescinding of an ordinance regarding rental regulations. 

Councilors Blonna, Irving, Grifoni and Babrowski voted to deny the Issler nomination, while Rola and Folley did not. Later in the discussions, Folley explained his position was meant to support a councilor’s right to appoint the person he or she proposed. 

Councilor Rola would then move the name of Nanette Rivera into nomination for his Planning Board nominee. Hearing no objections, she was accepted.  

Councilor Blonna placed into nomination the name of former Councilman Larry Honig, who has just finished the maximum time permissible to serve on Council, which is two four-year terms. 

Back in May of 2018, then Councilor Charlette Roman proposed that councilors at the end of their terms should have to wait two years prior to seeking an appointment to a committee such as the Planning Board. Roman did not feel it appropriate, citing possible conflicts and the appearances of a “ruling class” of residents on the island.  

As part of those discussions, Councilor Honig himself strongly supported the concept, even suggesting the possible time gap be four years, not the two years suggested by Roman. Council Chair Grifoni at the time also supported the concept. Roman’s suggestions did not garner adequate support for further consideration. Former Councilman Honig’s second fouryear term on Council has just expired. 

Councilor Honig was also embroiled in a controversy regarding a website, which he originally denied any connection to, with the exception of owning the website name. The website disparaged fellow members of the seven-member council which he was a member of, members of the community with which he had differing political views, as well as MICA, the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce and Marco Island Realtors. The Collier County Supervisor of Elections had also indicated that it is illegal to have an anonymous political website. During a later Council meeting, he recanted his attempts to distance himself from those articles and would finally admit he was the only contributor to that anonymous website. 

None of the six members of the City Council who voted for Planning Board members evening applied the same logic to the Honig nomination, and his name brought no opposition. 

The new Planning Board will now consist of Tom Swartz, Jason Bailey, Dave Vergo, Jeff FahringerMike Hogan, Nanette Rivera and Larry Honig. 



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