Documents reveal Marco PD battle internal concerns, mistrust

Reporter: Peter Fleischer
Published: Updated:

Marco Island is one of the most picturesque places in southwest Florida. But documents uncovered by WINK Investigations show frustrations and concerns exist amongst the men and women charged with keeping the community safe.

An anonymous email sent to Marco Island Police Chief Tracy Frazzano in September – that WINK Investigations Reporter Peter Fleischer reviewed – reveals serious accusations. It claims employees are “fed up with the lack of trust… continued apparent bias… and low morale…” while questioning how internal promotions are awarded.

Chief Frazzano defended how she runs her agency when asked about the accusations, but she also took the email to heart.

“Perception can outrule the facts sometimes,” Chief Frazzano admitted in an exclusive sit-down interview. “And I don’t ever want to have that perception that we’re a biased agency in any sort of way.”

Resetting promotion process

Frazzano acted quickly after receiving the email. In a written response reviewed by Fleischer, the chief admits the department was accused of an unfair promotional process regarding a lieutenant position that had already been decided. Although an internal candidate had already been chosen, MIPD started the entire process over as a result of the concerns.

Marco Island City Manager Mike McNees said a review found no evidence of bias, but it was important for police staff to feel the same way.

“It’s just one of those things that comes in, and you deal with it,” McNees explained. “And if it’s something to be addressed, we address it. And that’s what we did.”

Command staff incident

Disciplinary documents show how concerns also made their way to the top of the MIPD command staff. Paperwork from September shows a loud confrontation involving Captain Richard Stoltenberg and Lieutenant Matthew Gallup; two of the top four ranked officers at MIPD.

Gallup began yelling at Stoltenberg after a frustrating performance evaluation. The documents claim Gallup was “irate and belligerent,” and that he stated his review was “bull****” and “retaliation.”

Chief Frazzano says the department took Gallup’s frustrations seriously: “He made that accusation forward and that has been looked into,” Frazzano claimed. “And it has been unfounded, not substantiated.”

McNees agreed with Frazzano. “We did a very, very thorough internal review with a number of interviews,” he said. “We couldn’t find anyone else who would corroborate that there had been retaliation.”

At the end of the incident, Gallup eventually signed his evaluation in lieu of discipline after being ordered to do so multiple times. Chief Frazzano admitted that while she saw a similar incident at a different agency, it was the first of its kind during her time at MIPD.

The anonymous email sent to Frazzano also claimed that Marco Island Police employees “are deciding to leave” due to morale issues. McNees said the city tried to look into those claims too.
“Morale specifically is a really difficult thing to pin down,” McNees admitted. “How do you measure it?”

MIPD numbers don’t reflect staffing issues. Data provided by the city shows Marco Island has more full-time sworn officers than they’ve had at any point across the last five years. There are currently 38 on staff, up from 31 in 2019 when Frazzano began leading the department.

“I have faith in the chief,” McNees stated. “I think she’s trying real hard to build the right culture.”
Chief Frazzano said as a result of the recent concerns, she’s spoken with members of every shift and her command staff more often to improve communication and transparency.

“Has there been more of a focus on it? Yeah,” Frazzano acknowledged. “I need to make sure I’m giving the right message to you, and that you’re receiving the right message.”

She admitted communication is a two-way street.

Although MIPD restarted its promotion process to fill a lieutenant position, the same candidate was awarded the job both times.

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