MARCO ISLAND, Fla. — UPDATE 2/8:
The suspensions of Police Chief Tracy Frazzano and Fire Rescue Chief Chris Byrne will begin on Monday, Feb. 8, and will be in effect for 30 days.
During the suspension, Captain Dave Baer will be acting Police Chief, and Deputy Chief Dave Batiato as Fire Chief.
The suspensions for Police Chief Tracy Frazzano and Fire Rescue Chief Chris Byrne will begin on Monday, Feb. 8, and will be in effect for 30 days.
Both offered letters of apology today.
Police Chief Frazzano made the following statement:
"I would like to offer my heartfelt apology to the citizens of Marco Island, City Council, and the city staff for a decision I made that has negatively impacted our community. I provided a registration link to my husband with the belief that it would go live at the same time for everyone. That was not the case. We believed the vaccine would have been wasted if he did not go and receive it on that day. I should have used better judgment. I regret and acknowledge that it would have been better to have not received the vaccine. My focus will be on rebuilding the confidence of the city and its residents. I am deeply sorry for the impact this has had on our community. It was never my intention to circumvent the registration process or deprive anyone of the vaccine. I was brought here to set a higher standard and I failed to meet that standard in this instance."
Fire Rescue Chief Byrne stated the following:
"Dear citizens of the Marco Island community,
I wish to extend my sincere apology for my serious lack of judgment regarding a local COVID-19 vaccination appointment. I let you all down and I am forever remorseful for the harm I have caused. I have failed in my ethical responsibility to this community. I make no excuses as I know many of you are struggling to obtain a vaccine to protect yourself and your loved ones. This situation was self-inflicted, I take total responsibility for my actions and I will work tirelessly to earn back your trust and confidence for which I have damaged. I am grateful to the City Council and City Manager for their professionalism, fairness, and grace as they were faced with a situation they never should have had to deal with. This will forever be a defining moment in my life, and I am committed to use this experience as an opportunity to improve as a Man and Fire Chief.
I am available to discuss this situation with any community members who would like to. Please contact me at 239-206-0318."
Marco Island's City Manager has placed both the Police Chief and the Fire Chief on a 30 day suspensions without pay or accrual of benefits after an investigation of unauthorized access to the COVID-19 vaccine registration system.
On Jan. 20, city staff was preparing for the first opportunity to offer the Covid-19 vaccination on Marco Island. A web link had been provided by Collier County to the Eventbrite platform to allow reservations for vaccinations to be made through the city's website and social media accounts at 2 p.m. that day.
At approximately 1:50 p.m. Fire Chief Chris Byrne was notified by staff that the reservation link had been compromised and that one reservation had already been made by William Frazzano, the husband of Marco Island Police Chief Tracy Frazzano.
With public opening of the portal looming, Chief Byrne chose not to attempt to purge the one early registration at that moment so as not to interfere with the remaining registrations.
Byrne spoke to Chief Frazzano, who admitted she provided the link to her husband, believing that the link would go live at 2 p.m. as planned.
The Eventbrite registration link went live and approximately 3 minutes later all available reservations were filled.
On Jan. 22, Mr. Frazzano, who is a Florida resident 65 or older, received the vaccine at Veterans Community Park.
"A fundamental tenet of ethical public service is that as public employees we conduct ourselves in a manner that merits the trust and respect of our communities. It is also fundamental that we not leverage our public positions for personal gain or benefit," Marco Island City Manager Mike McNees stated in a press release. "Availability of and access to the Covid-19 vaccination is far and away the most sensitive issue currently of these times. Chief Frazzano’s lack of sensitivity to that issue, and her willingness to put her interest ahead of a carefully devised and fair public process to distribute the vaccine represent serious lapses of judgment on her part."
In discussing these events with Chief Frazzano, McNees says she made no excuses and expressed contrition and recognizes that even though providing the registration link to her husband and not realizing it was already functional may have been an honest mistake, her subsequent actions were not simple mistakes.
"Fire Chief Chris Byrne’s decision not to attempt to purge the early registration in the minutes before the system went live is understandable under the circumstances. Ensuring that the process be completed smoothly was an appropriate overarching goal. After the fact however Chief Byrne’s tacit approval of Mr. Frazzano receiving the vaccine under the circumstances represents a clear failure to balance his desire to “do good” with his professional and ethical responsibilities to the community," McNees stated in the release. "This breach is compounded by the fact that allowing Mr. Frazzano to receive the vaccination required that Chief Byrne not report the breach."
The start date of each suspension is yet to be determined, but no later than March 1.