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Fort Myers sticking with new City Manager, despite concerns

Posted at 11:01 PM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 23:01:44-04

FORT MYERS, FLA — Regret and concern weren't on the Fort Myers special city council meeting agenda Wednesday, but they were top of mind for many black people in Fort Myers, including leaders like Teresa Watkins Brown.

"I regret that I voted for him," she said, "We're going backwards we're not going forwards," said Councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown.

She's referencing the city's recent pick for city manager, Marty Lawing of North Carolina.

Less than two weeks after being picked some members of the council and community say they've only just learned that Lawing had been accused of discriminatory hiring practices and sued for upholding the wrongful termination of a black county employee, in his previous jobs.

The news has led to concerns and even a call to pull back the job offer.

"If I sit here as a councilperson and support this crazy move that we're making right now to bring somebody out here to take our city in a backwards move then I need to be out," said Brown.

"I was against this move from the very beginning," said Councilwoman Teroyln Watson.

"I'm very disappointed in the consultant for not bringing this up," said Councilman Johnny Streets Jr.

That said, other members of the council argued that the information was provided to council members in a packet and could be accessed by searching online.

"There was a packet given to each and every one of us that lists all of these issues," said Mayor Kevin Anderson.

Others argued that the claims made against Lawing, were just that "claims."

"We've all been accused of something before that's absolute bullcrap," said Councilwoman Darla Bonk.

In the end, and after a heated discussion, Lawing's contract and $230,000 salary were approved.

Despite being disappointed, those in the community and in leadership said they will make an effort to work with him.

"So I'm not discouraged, I'm more amplified than I've ever been before in my life," said Streets Jr.

Lawing's official start date is set for June 7.