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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Spin Stops Here

I noticed an article in the Naples News describing and quoting from a Marco Island Councilor, that the Monday, February 5 Council meeting was adjourned before the Council's business was to begin, and the reason given by Councilor Tucker, who made the motion, was that the crowd was unruly.

Since I was part of that crowd, as well as a speaker at this brief meeting, I want to correct this council's SPIN immediately. This was not , by any stretch of even this councils imagination, an unruly crowd. This was a crowd of Marco Residents who were very concerned about recent findings regarding possible violations of the sunshine law, by the council.

Since many major public expenditures, such as the Septic Tank Replacement Fiasco was possibly contrived "out of the sunshine", why wouldn't residents of this Island feel they were blind sided, and obviously be anxious to get at the truth, at this public meeting.

Yes, some audience speakers received applause while one received some disagreeing, yet not disruptive no's from the audience, but this is commonplace at many public meetings. But elected leaders don't walk out because their constituents are anxious for the truth and hunger for representation regarding their concerns from their elected officials. And even worse, elected officials should never adjourn a meeting because of an anxious audience, who might be in disagreement with their planed agenda actions, and SPIN it as a disruptive crowd. This was a serious crowd.

At the microphone, I told the council that I was very concerned over the data I reviewed regarding emails between councilors and staff that could be serious violations of the law. I based my opinions on my experiences in such areas, being a 20 year Federal Criminal Investigator. I did not base it on what I read in the paper, but on my review of the emails obtained from the city via the Freedom Of Information Act. In a Non Disruptive manner, I asked the Council to get in front of this situation quickly, to establish credibility with their constituents.

I suggested they do three things. First, direct the city attorney to initiate an immediate investigation into this matter of sunshine law violation. Second, do nothing at this meeting, such as approve any more sewer districts, until they have clearance that no wrongdoing took place. Third, that no contract be awarded (which was on the agenda) to any contractor that mishandled hazardous substances on this island before.

The Council must be very careful not to SPIN the truth. If the kitchen got to hot for them to handle, perhaps they need to make some attempt to diffuse the anxiety of their constituents by addressing the problem directly and not running away from it under the falsity that the audience was disruptive.

Shame on you council! We deserve better.

Joe Batte


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