homepage logo

Gunter again pushing for ‘official’ sole city spokesperson

By VALARIE HARRING - | Apr 2, 2024

Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter

Piqued at a pair of interviews his fellow members of City Council made to news crews concerning FEMA’s decision to pull a 25% discount for flood insurance policies in all of Lee County except the cities of Fort Myers and Sanibel, Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter has resurrected his previous bid for a sole city spokesperson.

Saying Council members Tom Hayden and Richard Carr provided media outlets with “very limited amounts of information” on the issue while he was working with Congressman Bryon Donald’s office and state representatives on a response, Gunter added a discussion to Wednesday’s Council agenda listed as “ADDENDUM: City Spokesman – Brought forward by Mayor Gunter.”

There was no backup material attached to the addendum but the mayor sent an email to the city’s administrative communications office, city manager and all council members.

It states, in part:

“Since we have Councilmembers who typical go rogue, and not even include our Communication Department with their ‘personal opinion’ with an issue and not an ‘Official Response’ from the City of Cape Coral on a particular issue, I see it non productive in participating in any interview with our media outlets. I’m not interested in just seeing my face on the 6:00p.m. news like some Councilmembers, I’m only interested in providing a formal City Response with the most factual amount of information possible.on any issue facing our community.. Unfortunately, some Councilmembers do not have the same intent, they have a personal agenda.

“Therefore, since we have Councilmembers who only want to provide a portion of the information, and not all the facts, then the media outlets can continue to contact those individuals with the least amount of information. As our Mayor, I will provide a written response to our community on ‘all’ the details we have to this point, and our city’s position moving forward.”

He asked the city’s communications manager, Melissa Mickey “to provide this email to all media outlets and copy me on forwarding this email to them.”

Carr said he found the email disconcerting.

“Upon receiving Mayor Gunter’s email on Monday night, I was disappointed and somewhat embarrassed by the negative and unprofessional comments attributed to Council members Hayden and myself,” he said in an email to The Breeze Wednesday morning. “Furthermore, I was taken aback by the evident tone of the writing, which unfortunately reflects the Mayor’s behavior when he feels slighted or disrespected. It should not escape the Mayor’s notice that we operate under a council-manager form of governance, not a strong Mayor system.

“My remarks regarding the FEMA issue were simply intended to reinforce what had already been acknowledged and stated by city staff and the Mayor previously. I saw merit in promptly responding to the media request to reassure the public that their elected officials are united in concern about the issue and to demonstrate support for the city’s progress moving forward.

“Regarding the communications office, I hold immense respect for its staff and their mission. I have consistently engaged with them when interacting with the media, and I even consulted the city manager before my interview to ensure I conveyed the correct information available at that time, which I did.

“Council does not operate under the Mayor’s subordination, and I will not be silenced or restricted by him or anyone else if I believe my comments and actions serve the best interests of the city and its residents. I eagerly anticipate tonight’s discussion.”

Cape Coral City Council will meet for its regular meeting at 4:30 p.m. today, April 3, in teh Council Cjambers at City Hall.

Meanwhile, the city on Tuesday announced that Gunter and City Manager Michael Ilczyszyn will speak on FEMA’s CRS rating decision at a noon press conference on Wednesday which the city will stream live on CCTV.

“The City of Cape Coral is urging FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to provide full transparency regarding its determination to retrograde the Community Rating System (CRS) rating for the city from 5 to 10, effective October 1, 2024,” the release states, in part.

“In response to recent media reports claiming that FEMA had sent ‘warning letters’ to the city regarding deficiencies in its flood mitigation efforts, the City of Cape Coral clarifies that it has diligently responded to all informational requests from FEMA since Hurricane Ian. Despite repeated attempts to obtain written documentation supporting FEMA’s allegations, the city has not received any substantiating evidence.

“City staff have consistently fulfilled FEMA’s requests for information within specified deadlines, providing all requested documentation. However, the city has not received any communication from FEMA indicating that the provided documentation would result in a retrograding of the CRS rating.”

Gunter’s previous bid for a policy that would have directed members of the media to the city’s Communications Office for comment, while appointing one Council spokesperson, made in March 2022 did not receive Council support.

Calls, a text and an email sent to Gunter have not been returned.

Council agreed Wednesday to discuss the item at its Committee of the Whole workshop meeting Wednesday, April 10, at City Hall. The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comment from Councilmember Carr.