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Concerns raised about Fort Myers City Manager's past

Posted at 10:23 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 22:57:51-04

FORT MYERS, FLA — The Fort Myers City Manager is already under fire less than two weeks after being picked.

"How did y'all choose a racist to be our city manager?" said Lee County NAACP President, James Muwakkil

The Lee County NCAAP President mincing no words Tuesday when discussing Marty Lawing.

He says Lawing isn't fit for the job after recently learning that he was named in several lawsuits while working in local government in North Carolina.

One lawsuit, brought forward more than a year ago accuses Lawing, then the Guilford County Manager of upholding the wrongful termination of a black county employee.

Several years before that, while working as the Brunswick County Manager Lawing was named in legal proceedings, that dealt with efforts to place a landfill in a mostly black neighborhood.

"Mr. Lawing has done some things that I don't think would make him the best manager for this county," said Carolyn Coleman during a 2013 Guilford County Commission meeting.

That landfill case and allegations about discriminatory hiring practices gave some Guilford County Commissioners pause when Lawing was considered for the role of county manager in 2013.

That said, he was ultimately still hired for the job.

"People get sued because of what they've done or what they've failed to do," said Muwakkil.

We took all of these concerns to Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson, who said he's aware of them, but added that lawsuits come with certain titles.

"What some people may not know is since being elected in November, I have been sued, not for anything I did individually just by virtue that I hold this position," said Anderson.

Mayor Anderson also rejected claims that Lawing could be labeled a "racist."

"If there was any question in my mind that any of those candidates were racist, they wouldn't have gotten an interview from me," he said.

That said it is clear that some in the black community in Fort Myers and beyond, have concerns about Lawings practices and past.

Mayor Anderson says he's confident the new city manager can overcome that hurdle in Southwest Florida.

"He will show the city of Fort Myers that he is a professional city manager who's gonna do a great job for the entire city of Fort Myers," he said.

We did reach out to the city to ask for some kind of response from Mr. Lawing himself, but we haven't heard back.

Wednesday's meeting to discuss his salary and contract will be at 4:30 pm.

Jacquelyn McMiller the former mayoral candidate who ran against the current Fort Myers Mayor is also speaking out against Mr. Lawing tonight.

She sent FOX 4 the following statement:

It is extremely concerning as to the lack of transparency in such an important hiring process. This gentleman is expected to assist in making decisions for a city with such a diverse population that has been through a lot and is still growing to move forward towards a path of equity and equality for women, blacks, and the protected class. Based on his factual reports from his previous employers and discrimination litigation that has been upheld by the middle district of NC. Yes, in his position he may be subject to litigation. However, it was. Mr. Lawing's final decision to fire this woman based on discrimination. And that we will not tolerate here in Fort Myers!!! It is blatantly obvious he is not a good choice to represent all the people.

There is no, factual, information that has been provided by the city council to support their decision to hire Mr. Lawing. Our mayor contends Mr. Lawing is a good guy. We can’t hire for such important positions because they’re “nice," it should be because they’re qualified!!!!

I’m shocked that it appears that no one involved in the selection process did their due diligence. The citizens put their trust in the leaders here, and unfortunately, we are disappointed and appalled.
It is all of our tax monies that pays for this position. Therefore, he should be representing all of the citizens, not a select few.