Congratulations to new Council members Ray Murphy and Rexann Hosafros. Both bring previous Town Council experience with them, along with an approach to public service that we expect will serve the citizens of Fort Myers Beach well.
Tuesday was a big day for our Island. After all the drama and talk about what the people of Fort Myers Beach really want, the people spoke. And they spoke clearly. The voting public of Fort Myers Beach wants to see a change in how our Town Council governs. The numbers in this election are so clear that the results cannot be attributed to PAC flyers or a Vote-by-Mail snafu. Citizens of Fort Myers Beach want responsible, open and ethical representation that puts the good of our entire community over personal preferences, agendas or egos.
As if to highlight the coming change, a majority of current council members on Monday just could not resist using their waning power one more time to tie the hands of the incoming council by not just reviewing the Town Manager’s performance, as the agenda stated, but approving a major contract change, which the agenda did not include. Nor did it include the proposed new contract. How can the public comment on agenda items if pertinent materials are not included in the agenda packet? How can council members make rational decisions if they do not have all the pertinent materials before the meeting?
Last year’s manager evaluation was held less than 10 months ago, making Monday’s exercise really a ten-month evaluation. And what a spectacular ten months that must have been! At the meeting, council members were handed a major contract revision and a majority approved it. Kind of surprising as the original contract had 2 years left on it. Whether our Town Manager deserves a new contract or a raise is not the issue. Our concern is over how and when this was done.
The new contract includes a raise, a 5 year extension plus what is essentially 15 more days of vacation by granting permission to work remotely for 15 days in June & July.
But wait! There’s more! The new contract removes language agreed to in 2017 by both parties that would provide decreasing severance pay over the life of the contract were he to be terminated without cause. The result is job security for the manager or a huge bill for the Town’s taxpayers. How exactly is that serving the Town’s citizens?
None of the four candidates had expressed any desire to remove the Town Manager. There was no need to rush this major contract change through the day before an election. A job evaluation made sense Monday. A contract change did not.
You don’t have to be a skeptical editor to recognize that this looks bad. Made worse by the fact that the amendment was signed by mid-day Tuesday, possibly a Town record. For all the talk about how our Town is just a quaint little beach town, this move was pure big city back room politics. Existing council members apparently don’t trust incoming members to do the right thing. Which is especially rich as the hiring of the current Town Manager in 2017 was postponed until a new council was seated — the same council that just tied the hands of the next council. And that is just arrogant.