To the editor:
"Poolgate" is over. Nobody won. Everyone lost. And it's time for everybody to put it behind them and move on.
The $250,000 to be paid to developer Joe Orlandini to settle the issue is a lot of money. It would have made a good down payment on a new town hall. The reality that everybody needs to face is that the town got off cheap. Had the case gone to trial, the town would have lost. The only evidence Orlandini would have needed to present was the building permit that was issued by the town staff. The whole mess could easily have cost an even bigger payout, not to mention both Orlandini's and the town's legal fees.
Orlandini did nothing illegal. That he convinced the town staff to issue the permit only suggests that he's a good talker and a hustler. This is free enterprise at work, something that the mostly conservative residents of our area should understand. He did make a good choice by settling the suit. If he'd pressed it, no matter what the outcome, he would have pretty much screwed himself out of any future in Fort Myers Beach. Being mad at him for being good at doing what real estate developers do makes no more sense than being mad at lions because they eat gazelles. It's what they do. It's the town's job to keep a developer's "vision" in compliance with the rules and the town failed to do this.
The staffers that allowed the debacle are all gone. I'm sure that somehow, in their minds, they were doing what was best for the town. The Town Council in office at the time still has to take some of the responsibility. It happened on their watch and there were several warnings about the problem and they went on vacation instead of acting on the warnings. The combination of egos, conflicting agendas and misguided priorities all around got us into the mess.
Over the years, I've written any number of commentaries slamming any number of elected officials, sometimes entire councils, for exceeding their authority and micromanaging the town's business. "Hire a manager," I said. "Let him/her manage and get out of the way."
Clearly, it is time for the pendulum to swing in the other direction. There is new management and so far it seems to be going well.
Something that must start happening is that some system of regular reporting, beyond the "Town Manager's Items" at council meetings, must be put in place so the Council really knows what's going on in the town's administration. I'm not suggesting that the Council start micromanaging. The call on most of the issues should still lie with the manager, but the Council as a whole must be kept better informed.
To use the sports analogy, "Poolgate" was an unforced error. It didn't have to happen. Let's hope we learned something from it, because we're sure paying a hell of a lot for the lesson.
Fort Myers Beach