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Cloud over Fort Myers Beach

July 25, 2009
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Fair or not, a parting of the ways between the Town of Fort Myers Beach and its manager, Scott Janke, was probably inevitable.

Both Mr. Janke and Mayor Larry Kiker reacted with marked shock when they received their first phone calls Tuesday, both apparently unaware that an adult industry Web site had posted a story contrasting Mr. Janke's career in town management with his wife's involvement in the adult entertainment business.

Saying the reporter's call concerning the article "came as a complete shock," Mr. Janke declined comment.

Mayor Kiker was also caught off-guard. He promised to call back after obtaining more information and he did, requesting more than once that the story be held for a day to give the Jankes time to talk with their teen-aged children.

What Mayor Kiker neglected to mention was that while the Jankes were having that family chat Tuesday night, he was calling an emergency meeting of the town council to fire dad - and that Mr. Janke's reaction to the disclosure had been an offer to resign.

We fail to see the emergency and we fail to see how council's "emergency" charade - a meeting held with no public notice save a cover-your-posterior posting of the meeting on the town's Web site and hall door - served anyone.

If Mayor Kiker and his council cohorts thought they could spare the town embarrassing media attention, they failed miserably by giving an interesting local story national appeal via the hasty firing "without cause."

Council also failed miserably if its members thought they were serving the residents, who now have to pay $50,000 plus the cost of benefits, for the botched attempt at making the "problem" of media attention - and Mr. Janke and his wife - go away.

Embarrassing phone calls or not, this is not how the process of open government is intended to work. And while it may be legal, calling this situation an emergency so as to take advantage of special - and scant - public noticing requirements is just not right.

The meeting to discuss the resignation, or termination, of the town's top administrator could have - and should have - been noticed through regular meeting requirements designed to give the public adequate time to attend and comment.

Again, judging from the reactions of both Mr. Janke and town officials Tuesday, the outcome of the session would likely have been a parting of the ways.

But then, we'll really never know if public input would have made a difference. It wasn't asked for. It wasn't sought. And it certainly wasn't welcome by the Fort Myers Beach Town Council.

- Breeze editorial



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