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Time and money
May 25, 2018

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If there is one thing you learn pretty quickly in the private sector, it's that time is money.

That's true, too, in the public sector, of course, but there is one big difference for those operating on government time: It's not their money.

Which may be why the city of Cape Coral's administration apparently has few qualms about racking up hours on problems and projects on the taxpayers' dime.

From the still-ongoing LCEC franchise agreement debacle which topped the collective $1 million mark last summer to the latest administrative investigation dawdle dragging toward its sixth month, costs seem to be of little concern.

Latest case in point:

Cape Coral City Manager John Szerlag placed assistant city manager Michael Ilczyszyn on paid leave in December pending an investigation by outside counsel, called for in the wake of an alleged domestic violence incident which resulted in no charges.

After nearly $53,000 shelled out in paid leave time later, Mr. Szerlag decided to return Mr. Ilczyszyn to work last Monday, but in a different capacity, while the administrative investigation continues.

The status of the investigation and the reasoning behind the decision?

As of this Thursday afternoon, the city isn't saying.

Not what duties Mr. Ilczyszyn, whose starting salary as assistant city manager in 2015 was $115,000, is performing in Public Works.

Not how much the city has paid "outside counsel" to conduct the investigation to date.

Not who that "outside counsel" or firm might be.

Not who or what entity is continuing the "ongoing investigation" since Mr. Szerlag received a report, if not the investigative report, a few weeks ago, a document confirmed by an exemption-denied public records request as the matter is still pending.

Not why Mr. Szerlag subsequently decided to return Mr. Ilczyszyn to work on May 14 "at the direction of the Public Works director" after leaving him on paid leave since Dec. 7.

Let us be clear here.

We embrace the concept of innocent until proven guilty. That does apply to administrative matters.

We agree that unpaid leave until allegations are verified at least to the point of determining whether there may be fire beneath any smoke is a just and fair response.

The city absolutely should do its due diligence.

But in real time, please, not government time.

Prompt attention and prioritization of personnel matters is best practices bedrock for employers, public and private.

It's better for the employee, it's better for the related workforce and it's better for the institution.

It's also better in this case for the people - i.e. taxpayers -who are footing the bill, a reality that extends far past the "ongoing" personnel matter at hand.

Let us repeat: time is money.

Sometimes lots of money.

Costs, much as we might wish, can't be paid for with smiley-faced admin bucks, seemingly coined here in the Cape in surprising amounts for some projects and issues.

It takes cash - hard-earned cash - that thing the city refers to as "revenue."

And "diversified" or not, much of it comes out of the same taxpayer pocketbooks.

We would urge council to stress both this and the need to better conserve it.

-Breeze editorial

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