Marco Island police, fire chiefs being suspended, failed to report compromise of vaccine registration system

The City of Marco Island confirmed Wednesday both the city’s police chief and fire chief will be suspended after failing to report a known compromise to the city’s coronavirus vaccine reservation system prior to when it was meant to go live for the public Jan. 20.

According to City Manager Mike McNees’ investigation releases, a compromise to the Collier County Eventbrite system for COVID-19 vaccine registration was made when the husband of Police Chief Tracy Frazzano, William Frazzano, accessed the system before the registration system was meant to go live.

Chief Frazzano confirmed she had provided her husband a link to the registration system with the intent he would access it when it went live for the public at 2 p.m. that day.

“What she didn’t realize this was the hotline, the hotline into Eventbrite. This isn’t the link that turns on at two. It’s always on,” McNees explained. “There was a clear and simple opportunity for us not to do anything improper. He needs to not show up and get that vaccine and let them know there was one more available, and that’s not what happened.”

According to the city managers reports, Fire Chief Chris Byrne was notified at 1:50 p.m. by Collier County staff the reservation link had been compromised, and that one reservation for vaccination had already been made prior to it going live.

That reservation was determined to be made by William Frazzano. Minutes before the public opening of the web portal, Byrne did not attempt to purge the one early registration in that moment so it wouldn’t potentially interfere with remaining registrations. The city manager acknowledged that as an understandable action to ensure the process went smoothly.

“After the fact however, Chief Byrne’s tacit approval of Mr. Frazzano receiving the vaccine
under the circumstances represents a clear failure to balance his desire to ‘do good’
with his professional and ethical responsibilities to the community,” McNees wrote in his report.

“We all need it. I need it. My mom needs it. Everyone needs it,” community member Keith Briand said. “No one should be put before someone else.”

“We all know the pecking order for the vaccine,” community member Terry Thorsell said.

McNees knows how sensitive people are when it comes to vaccines.

“I’m right there with them at 6 o’clock in the morning clicking on the waiting list a lot,” He said. “I understand their frustration.”

The city manager confirmed Byrne spoke to Frazzano, who admitted she had provided the Eventbrite link to her husband, again, believing the link would go live at 2 p.m. as planned.

“It is also fundamental that we not leverage our public positions for personal gain or benefit,” McNees wrote in his report. “The use of [Frazzano’s] position as Chief of Police to secure a coveted COVID-19 vaccination for her husband represents a clear failure on the part of Chief Frazzano to meet those standards.”

At 2 p.m. Jan. 20, the Eventbrite registration link went live on the City’s various
portals, and approximately three minutes later, all available reservations had been filled.

On Jan. 22, William Frazzano, who is 65 years of age or older and a Florida
resident, appeared at Veterans Community Park on Marco Island and received the COVID-19 vaccination.

The city manager recognized Chief Frazzano’s concern for her own underlying health conditions as possible motive for her to secure a vaccine for her husband. The manager also said she has already been vaccinated as a first responder.

“Everyone knows her health conditions and life,” Thorsell said. “I’m all right with that.”

Chief Frazzano has not publicly disclosed her health conditions.

Others say there’s no excuse.

“I don’t think anyone should be put in front of anybody else because of their disease,” Briand said. “It’s just not right.”

The city manager recognized Byrne’s actions as a “lack of fairness” and Frazzano’s as a “lack of sensitivity” and said both chiefs are expected to be role models in the community.

McNees wrote he does not believe the consequences the two chiefs are facing should overwhelm the positive track records both public servants have conducted to date in their respective careers, deeming their suspensions as a balance against the good they have done while still holding them accountable for the current circumstance.

The city manager says both Byrne and Frazzano will be suspended from their respective duties for the City of Marco Island for 30 calendar days. The city manager plans to offer them both a predetermination meeting within 24 hours before a final decision is made.

The suspensions will begin no later than March 1. During that time, neither Byrne nor Frazzano will participate in the operation of their departments in any way and will receive no compensation or accrue any benefits they would normally gain as City of Marco Island employees.

Now that islanders know chiefs Frazzano and Byrne did not follow the rules of the vaccine registration, they believe trust will be the long-term issue on Marco.

“It’s an abuse of power as far as I’m concerned,” Briand said. “Some people will probably look differently at them.”

UPDATE: On Thursday, Chief Frazzano released a statement apologizing for the incident.

“I am sorry this occurred,” she said. “A link was provided to my husband with the belief that it would go live at the same time for everyone. That was not the case. We thought the vaccine would have been wasted if he did not go. We regret this occurred and acknowledge that it would have been better to have not received the vaccine. My focus will be rebuilding the confidence of the city and its residents.”

Fire Chief Byrne released an apology letter to the Marco Island community as well Thursday. He said he is available to discuss the situation with any community members at 239-206-0318.

MORE: See fire chief’s full letter to community of Marco Island

Thursday, the city manager confirmed suspensions for both chiefs Frazzano and Byrne will begin Monday, Feb. 8, and be in effect for 30 days.

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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