CAPE CORAL, Fla. — City Manager John Szerlag’s in the middle of several investigations tied to hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties to the IRS. People who live in Cape Coral said he should get put on administrative leave until the investigations are over.
In a special meeting Thursday night, council voted to have an outside agency investigate City Manager John Szerlag for incorrect tax filings that cost the city $402,000 in fines from the IRS.
Martina Kilgo lives in Cape Coral and watched the discussion unfold on tv last night.
“Honestly my first reaction was corruption, corruption, corruption,” she said.
She said Szerlag shouldn’t stay on the job while an independent agency investigates.
“When I was an employee I got a bonus if I did good work. And I don’t know how that would qualify as doing great work if the city is in trouble. I think they should put him on unpaid administrative leave,” she said.
Council member Marilyn Stout did not vote for the independent investigation.
“It’s a he-said, she-said situation. So, how is an investigation going to tell us more?” she asked.
She called council’s involvement in the investigations premature.
“By our charter we don’t get involved in administration,” she said. “It’s micromanaging, and it’s something we’re not supposed to do.”
But, Mayor Joe Coviello said council’s involvement is necessary to have transparency.
“If you have a strong leader, would you have all of these investigations taking place?” he asked.
Coviello said according to an audit, Szerlag knew all this was going on before council approved his 15 percent raise in November.
Kilgo also disagrees with council’s decision to give Szerlag a raise, even though Stout said he was the least paid manager compared to others in similar size cities.
“I think other cities are not in the news because they’re fined by the IRS $402,000.,” said Kilgo.
Stout said she plans to vote against putting Szerlag on administrative leave during Monday’s meeting.
The outside agency will also do a criminal investigation into the allegations against the city manager. Coviello said he doesn’t think there was any criminal intent, but they have to make sure.