Islamorada Village Attorney Roget Bryan announced his resignation to council members during a May 12 meeting inside the Founders Park Community Center.
A separation agreement ends the current employment agreement between the village and Bryan on May 20. It includes 20 weeks of severance pay on the date of separation. The village will also provide Bryan’s accrued and unused sick time and vacation leave, as well as insurance and retirement benefits for 20 weeks.
Bryan stepped into the position, the village’s first in-house attorney after incorporating, in 2013. He was selected by the village council on Sept. 27, 2013 to serve as attorney. On Oct. 10, 2013, the village approved an employment contract. His first meeting was on the Publix matter. His first meeting was on the Publix matter.
During those years, he served five councils composed of 15 different members. He also served alongside four village managers, with the fifth selected in Ted Yates on May 6. Bryan’s service overlapped with four village clerks, four planning directors, three building officials, three public works directors, three finance directors and several other department heads.
His tenure was marked by a number of events, including completion of the wastewater collection system, implementation of a swim zone on Lower Matecumbe, negotiation with three collective bargaining groups, Hurricane Irma and the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout it all, Bryan said he never missed a council meeting.
Upon Bryan’s arrival, he said it was definitely hard and unpredictable to envision what the journey was going to be like for the village and him. But he performed the role with “full respect, professionalism and dedication to the village.”
He not only served as an attorney, but also as a liaison for legislative and government affairs at the state and federal levels. He represented the Keys in Tallahassee and Washington while maintaining the village’s seat at the table in key policy decisions and defending the village’s home rule ability to make local decisions.
His work was recognized by the Florida League of Cities for four straight years, as he was named a Home Rule Hero for providing critical analysis and input throughout the session on bills with ramifications to local municipalities. Bryan again received the Home Rule Hero recognition following the 2022 session for his hard work and advocacy efforts during the state legislative session.
In his statements to the council, Bryan said he shared the length and breadth of his tenure in the position while also recognizing the toll public service can extract. Bryan said that former village manager Greg Oravec, during his resignation announcement, reflected that he lost his appetite for some of the political dynamics with the job.
“I would offer instead that personally I have no appetite at all for the external political dynamics that involve personal attacks on my name, character, reputation, integrity and most egregiously my family,” he said. “I refuse to tolerate, accept or normalize such attacks on myself, any village manager here and any staff as par for the course.
“In reflection on my service and deep affection for this village, it is for these reasons that it’s the right time to step down from my services as village attorney,” he continued.
Bryan went on to acknowledge the staff and the work they did each day without the public understanding their function. Bryan said he’s especially thankful for the strong, positive relationships forged during his time, especially with Dan Gulizio, new village planning director; Pete Frezza, environmental resources manager; Terry Abel, fire chief; and Maria Bassett, finance director who served as acting village manager on three different occasions.
“Thank you for embodying the best of village government excellence,” Bryan said.
During the council’s remarks, Mayor Pete Bacheler said Bryan was his favorite attorney.
“Your door has always been open to me when I had issues, and the public doesn’t know this unless you’re an elected official,” he said. “There’s a lot of bad things out there that can bite you in the rear end. Your advice has been spot on every single time. I’ve enjoyed that. I’m sorry to see you go.”
Councilman Mark Gregg said Bryan was among the finest people to ever work with, while Councilman Henry Rosenthal requested that Bryan remain a part of the community.
With Bryan’s upcoming departure, the current council has seen several department heads exit. They include Ty Harris, former village planning director who resigned in July 2021; Kelly Toth, clerk who retired last December; and Oravec, who resigned at the beginning of 2022.
With a separation agreement approved, the village council will look to utilize the services of Weiss Serota as the village’s temporary law firm.