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Cape council disbands Financial Advisory Committee

By Staff | Mar 13, 2012

Despite the impassioned pleas from committee members and some members of the public, the Cape Coral City Council on Monday slammed the death nail into the Financial Advisory Council after an emotional debate at City Hall.

The council also voted 6-2 to re-establish the Budget Review Committee, which some fear will be much weaker than the former board and serve as little more than council “yes” men.

The motion passed by a 5-3 vote, with Mayor John Sullivan and council members Chris Chulakes-Leetz and Rana Erbrick casting the dissenting votes.

The discussion by council was preceded by pleas from several members of the now-defunct board, including chairman Don McKiernan, as well as numerous citizens who loathed the idea of firing volunteers.

McKiernan stood by his statements from Feb. 13, which started the ball rolling on disbandment, in which he said the city’s pension obligations and OPEB threatened to break the budget.

“You’re making the budget, but getting deeper and deeper into a hole and further deteriorating our financial situation,” McKiernan said. “You don’t compare pension contributions to debt service, you do it to payroll.”

Councilmember Marty McClain, who sponsored the resolution, accused the FAC of rouge-like tactics.

“Highly educated people are independent thinkers who don’t look at solutions and get off track,” McClain said. “The chemistry and makeup is not there. When you get someone with authority they become the authority.”

FAC liaison Erbrick cautioned against sacking the FAC, suggesting instead to cut as needed.

“Don’t disband it because you don’t like the message. When their term comes up, don’t renew them,” Erbrick said, although she agreed the committee lacked direction.

Chulakes-Leetz also disagreed with the alleged “shoot the messenger” approach.

“A new committee would have no meaning. If you don’t like the message, be part of the solution,” Leetz said.

Councilmember Kevin McGrail, however, said the time had come to stop looking at the council as the enemy, which he thought the FAC had now regarded them as.

“How do we prevent the letters to the editor? The FAC sees us as ‘them.’ How can we work with you if you see us as the problem?” McGrail asked.

The council then voted to disband the committee, to the dismay of McKiernan.

“I won’t apply for the new commission. There’s no value to a committee restricted to being a cheerleader,” McKiernan said. “The problems will just get bigger.”

The council then voted on a commission it hoped would follow guidelines and stay inside the boundaries set forth by the council, which some believed the FAC overstepped.

Sullivan bemoaned the decision, saying it will make it tougher to get qualified volunteers to join committees.

“We’re disbanding a committee with lots of talent. That’s damage,” Sullivan said. “We won’t get the same quality of volunteers. I’m sorry we did it the way we did it.”