Cape mayor weary, ready to end controversial tenure

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FILE: Former Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki

CAPE CORAL, Fla. Mayor Marni Sawicki is ready to move on.

And in a matter of days, that’s what she’ll do.

“I’m excited for the next chapter of the city, but for me, I’m ready to move on to the next challenge,” said Sawicki, whose term ends Nov. 20.

MORE: Cape Coral mayoral election to take place Tuesday

Sawicki’s final City Council meeting as mayor takes place Monday, closing a four-year tenure marked in the last 18 months by controversy involving her brief marriage to retired Cape Coral fire Lt. Kenneth D. Retzer.

She married him after filing for a restraining order against him. There were reports of a “domestic disturbance” between the two before their divorce, which took place just months after their nuptials. A judge later issued a protection order for Sawicki, and in June, Sawicki and Retzer engaged in a physical altercation in a hotel room at a mayor’s conference in Miami.

“When you spend a year and a half talking about your personal life … a lot more energy could have been placed in different areas,” Sawicki said.

Her private affairs weren’t alone in drawing scrutiny. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement opened an investigation into Sawicki’s office last month, one centered around an ethics complaint, Sawicki said.

The mayor suggested the investigation may prove a waste of taxpayer money.

“We’ll wait and see,” she said. “I’m hoping to have something cleared up ASAP. I’m going to want to know how much police department salary dollars, how many hours went into it, because I think when it’s all said and done, the ones responsible should pay that back.”

City Councilman Richard Leon called on the state ethics commission to investigate Sawicki in August 2016, accusing her of accepting gifts — including a $3,500 diamond ring and a lease for a $47,000 Audi — from a city vendor.

The gifts came from Brian Rist, president and CEO of the parent company of Storm Smart Industries, which has sponsored the city’s Red, White, and Boom event on the Fourth of July. The gifts came while Rist and Sawicki were romantically involved, Leon said.

Sawicki announced in March she wouldn’t seek re-election. The office will go to either Joe Coviello or Michael Hollow, who face off in Tuesday’s general election.

“I’m tired,” Sawicki said. “It’s definitely been something that anyone that’s taken this for the last year and a half would be tired.”

She said she plans to focus next on Indigo Pros Inc., her marketing consultancy firm.

MORE: City Council to mull name change for Cape Coral road

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