Fort Myers City Council members heard updates into an ongoing investigation on city attorney Grant Alley Monday.
Alley told the council during an August meeting that he would be going on a leave of absence to preserve the integrity of the investigation, stemming from complaints from city staff of the attorney’s “overly aggressive” behavior. Council voted on Monday to put him on administrative leave
Sonia Diaz, an outside attorney and the lead investigator in the probe, while not giving specifics due to the ongoing investigation, said that there is “an air of concern and fear” inside the attorney’s office, with some fearing retaliation or that Alley would be unable to make any changes.
“Regardless of how hard it may be to do, at the end of the day, we have to do the right thing because it is simply the right thing to do,” councilmember Teresa Watkins Brown said about employees speaking out.
Mayor Randy Henderson agreed, saying the city needs to make sure that employees who need to make complaints are respected, and that the city needs to understand “how much courage it takes to stand up for yourself.”
The report is not yet available due to the open investigation.
Diaz said that many of the complaints from staff stem from Alley’s aggressive behavior, and that it has increased over the last year. The city has dealt with several major issues over the last year, including a major police corruption scandal, and uncovered documents related to toxic waste dumping in city neighborhoods coming out earlier this summer – issues that councilmember Michael Flanders said needs to be taken into consideration.
A large concern is the personal oversight from the council to the city attorney, Alley previously reported to the city manager’s office. The report says Alley limited communication between his staff and the council, and issues the staff being unable to get guidance on work which needed direct oversight on certain projects to avoid bottle necking the work load.
Alley did receive praise from members of his staff about his work.
“He has had an immense number of glowing remarks about his skill and his dedication to the city, even coming from some of the sources of the complaints,” Diaz said.
The council asked Diaz to return for a special meeting on Nov. 6, with recommendations on how to move forward based on a written warning and management training, and to consider a consultant to review the city’s legal department.
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