Sanibel City Manager sets the record straight after Facebook post creates rumors about police force

Published: August 13, 2022 9:45 AM EDT
Updated: August 13, 2022 12:28 PM EDT
Sanibel City Manager Dana Souza (CREDIT: Sanibel government)

The City of Sanibel is having to defend itself against rumors that it wants to disband its police department in favor of using services from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

On Friday, the city released a letter written by City Manager Dana A. Souza addressed to residents and communities.

Souza said the Cape Coral Fraternal Order of Police made a Facebook post on Aug. 9, alleging that Sanibel Mayor Holly Smith was attempting to have “closed meetings without the Chief of Police being present” to discuss the future of the police department.

Souza told WINK News on Saturday that his letter “says it all.”

“To repeat the primary point, the Sanibel City Council nor the Sanibel administration have had any conversations related to disbanding the Sanibel Police Department in favor of services from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office,” he said.

According to Souza’s letter, the Facebook post said COVID-19 has strained the Sanibel Police Department, leading to finance, retention and recruitment issues.

The post alleges Smith “does not Back the Blue but only the green in the form (of) money and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.”

Souza responded to the post on Aug. 11, but it was then deleted.

In his letter to the Sanibel community, Souza wrote that it was not true that city council did not support the police department.

“The accusations presented in the Cape Coral FOP Facebook page are false, unfortunate, and divisive,” Souza said. “It does not represent the positive community culture generally found in Sanibel. We are a community founded on principles of positive communication, tolerance, and civil discourse. I hope this letter can put these false accusations to rest, so we can all focus on our work to ensure Sanibel remains a beautiful, safe, and respectful place to live and work.”

Souza said he was sharing the letter with the community for transparency because the Facebook post had been deleted and so was a response from the city. He also shared the since-deleted Facebook post.

Souza addressed the rumors and said it was not up to Smith but up to him, who attends city meetings and that to date, Sanibel police Chief William Dalton had not been excluded from any meetings.

Additionally, Souza said, the city council recently approved an average 6% pay increase for sworn police officers, outside of any collective bargaining negotiations and has also approved a multi-million dollar upgrade to police facilities, showing that they are in support of the police department.

Souza did say there are four vacant positions that they are having a hard time filling, which is an issue for police departments in Southwest Florida.

Souza said he reached out to Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno about whether he had any meetings with Sanibel city officials and Marceno “confirmed that his office has not had any conversations with Sanibel elected officials or staff about providing police services to Sanibel.”

“It is particularly disappointing this false statement was published, since prior to the timing of this post, the Sanibel Police Chief and I met with a majority of Sanibel Police Department personnel to advise them directly that this allegation was false,” Souza said in a comment on the now-deleted Facebook post.

“These are the facts,” he added.

To read the full letter from Souza and the previously-published Facebook post and the city’s response, visit this link.

This is a developing story.