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New hire compensation bump, board appointment elicit council discussion

January 9, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Cape Coral City Council debated a pair of issues Monday with each ultimately failing to get a unanimous nod.

Mayor Joe Coviello was the lone dissenting vote involving a resolution to authorize City Manager John Szerlag to pay up to maximum when hiring the new Economic Development manager, presumably Ricardo Noguera, who received a conditional offer of employment contingent on Council action.

The city manager can, at his discretion, pay a newly hired employee up to the mid-point of a pay grade. With Council approval, he can hire in at a higher rate for the position, in this case at the top of the scale.

The position pays $74,672 - $119,516.80 per year. Szerlag would like Noguera to start at the maximum, $119,516, with the possibility of a job classification, and so a raise, six months after hire based on performance.

Councilmember John Gunter said an EDO manager is one of the most important positions in the city, as he or she is responsible for attracting and retaining business.

Councilmember Jennifer Nelson said she was impressed by Noguera's credentials.

According to his resume, Noguera has a Masters in City & Regional Planning: Emphasis: Land Use & Community Economic Development from U.C. Berkeley and 27 years of experience, including tenure in South Florida.

A city interview panel, consisting of Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais, interim Assistant City Manager Connie Barron, Community Development Director Vince Cautero and Szerlag, independently and unanimously rated Noguera as the top candidate.

"Mr. Noguera has extensive experience (more than 25 years) in municipal economic development and redevelopment in the states of California, Florida and Washington ... With his broad knowledge base and enthusiasm for the job, he will bring a new direction to our economic development efforts," Szerlag said in his memo to Council.

An attached background check outlined "allegations of discrimination with regards to a hostile work environment" in Tacoma, Washington, where Noguera served as the Community and Economic Development Director. It was ultimately resolved via a mediated settlement with neither side accepting fault. Based on positive references and a review of "the investigation (or lack thereof)," Cape Coral Police Chief David Newlan found that ... "the investigation lacked accuracy and was not meticulous to define a proper disposition. Therefore, it is my recommendation that the City of Cape Coral should move forward and offer Mr. Noguera the position he applied for with the City."

Coviello asked about the six-month probation period contained in the city's offer and whether it was standard practice to have it be six months.

He did not specify if that was the reason he voted against the higher starting compensation.

If Noguera accepts the position, he is expected to start Feb. 4.

In other business, Gunter and Councilmember Rick Williams disagreed with the decision to approve the appointment of Kevin Shedd to the Construction Regulation Board.

Despite Shedd's 40 years of experience in the electrician field and being the holder of a journeyman's card, he is not licensed by the state, which was a deal breaker for Gunter.

Williams was concerned that since the positions open were for roofing and plumbing, even though Shedd had installed roofs, if that was the best fit.

"I feel it is important if we had a plumbing or roofing contractor for the position. I feel a person should be a licensed contractor here who is familiar with the codes and regulations," Gunter said.

Also, even if it didn't come to a vote, City Council debated who will go on a scheduled visit to China as part of a Sister City program.

Nita Whaley spoke to Council about a scheduled visit from a delegation from Baise, China, set for the end of February. She added that part of the agreement would be for a delegation from Cape Coral to go to China, preferable in late April or early May.

The delegation would likely include Coviello, Noguera, if hired, Whaley, Barron, JoAnne Killion, Vince Cautero and possibly one council member, along with some private entities who would pay their own way.

Coviello said he wanted his assistant, Pearl Taylor, to go, since she had attended the meetings. He said bringing another council member could result in a Sunshine Law issue.

But Gunter and others on Council thought it was a bit much.

Szerlag agreed the EDO director would be a great choice to go, and said he declined to go himself.

City Council voted unanimously to approve $10,000 for the visiting delegation.

In other business, the city also formally approved the issuance of $60 million in General Obligation Bonds to finance a wide range of parks and recreation projects. That vote was unanimous.

Council also approved an interlocal agreement for joint water quality and storage improvements to Yellow Fever Creek Preserve.



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