Kimberly Matthews, county senior director of strategic planning and libraries, is serving another stint as village manager. CONTRIBUTED

Following the Feb. 13 selection of Robert Cole as the next Islamorada manager, council members convening for a Feb. 15 meeting approved another 60-day agreement for Kimberly Matthews’ services as interim manager. 

The Feb. 15 meeting was an extension of the Feb. 13 meeting, as several items were left unheard as council concluded a four-hour meeting around 9:30 p.m.

Since last August, council members have conducted village business with assistance from Monroe County department heads through an employee interchange agreement. Last July, the council voted 3-2 to forgo another year with then-manager Ted Yates, leaving the council in need of someone to run the village’s day-to-day operation. County Administrator Roman Gastesi offered to loan some of his top cabinet members for the short term until the council made a selection for the next permanent manager. 

Matthews, the county senior director of strategic planning and libraries, began her interim manager stint on Jan. 8. The agreement for her services was set to expire on March 8. With the village attorney’s office and Cole in contract negotiations, a renewal for another 60 days beginning March 8 with Matthews was believed to be in the village’s best interest. Matthews could serve in the interim manager position until May 8. The county or village could end the agreement earlier, however, with written communication stating both sides consent to the termination. 

Councilman Henry Rosenthal said the new incoming manager, Cole, should have a say whether he’d like assistance from Matthews upon arrival. 

“I just feel that’s where it should be. I don’t know if 60 days is warranted truthfully,” Rosenthal said in relation to the extension.

Mayor Buddy Pinder said the village needs a manager with Cole not on board just yet. Council proceeded to approve the agreement for another 60 days via unanimous vote. 

An ordinance was approved 4-0 establishing guidelines for reimbursing expenses related to counsel services when a charge is brought against a village council member or department head and successfully defended in court. Payment for legal expenses would only be authorized when a village official is found not guilty or not liable for their actions which are taken within the scope of their duties and responsibilities. 

Reimbursements wouldn’t be allowed, however, when there’s conviction by a jury for a crime committed, a guilty plea, a finding by the state Ethics Commission of a violation or a court stipulation where the official agrees to dispose of the charges by compromise rather than adjudication. 

Councilman Mark Gregg said the ordinance does not reward anyone who violates the law with a “free payment of their lawyer.” 

“That’s not what we want to do here,” Gregg said. “I’m in my eighth year of public service on the council, and I’ve had two of these things filed against me, both of them frivolous and both of them dismissed before they even got investigated. As a candidate coming aboard down the line, I think it’s important for the candidate to understand that their government is behind them when someone files a frivolous or unfounded claim. Otherwise they’re going to be discouraged from running for office.”

In other matters: 

  • A resolution to approve a final ranking and recommendation for ride-sharing service was pulled from the agenda after Matthews said the selection process was “flawed.” The village will look to advertise a request for proposals and reconvene an advisory committee to review proposals.
  • Council approved a pavilion with an observation deck at Green Turtle Hammock Preserve for $1.7 million. Vice Mayor Sharon Mahoney and Rosenthal voted “no” on the project. 
  • Council members said “yes” to create a process for annual legislative priorities ahead of the state session in Tallahassee.
Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.