Fort Myers employee complains of 'dangerous' party at STARS complex

Posted: Sep 05, 2018 7:41 PM -04:00 Updated:
FORT MYERS, Fla. -

Fort Myers city officials are revising the city's special events policies after an employee emailed her supervisors complaining about "dangerous" and "inappropriate" behavior during two private parties at the STARS Complex.

People rent city facilities to host private parties almost every weekend of the year.

"Weddings, receptions, events, community meetings," Fort Myers Public Works Director Richard Moulton said.

Moulton oversees Parks and Recreation, which allows residents to rent out facilities like the STARS Complex, Skatium and the Riverside Community Center.

That rental process is now under review after the Fort Myers Aquatics Director wrote an email and attached pictures of the party.

The employee outlines two parties over one weekend in May saying her "concerns were endless."

On May 25, she said she witnessed "alcohol being served and brought to the pool deck" and "guests smoking cigarettes, cigars and marijuana."

Moulton says he found no evidence of marijuana at STARS.

At a party on May 27, she said, "guests there were borderline passing out underneath the 'funbrellas' and almost falling over."

"Did you have any concerns with what you saw?" Investigative Reporter David Hodges asked Moulton.

"Well there's a normal process to deal with any issue that comes up when a private entity rents a space," Moulton said.

"There were some areas where they didn't follow the rules of the contract as it was specified."

Alcohol is allowed at private parties if the organizer pays a $500 deposit and has insurance for the event. But according to the staffer's email and city documents, at least six rules were broken, including disobeying pool staff, having drinks in the pool area and smoking.

Parents and grandparents we talked to who were picking up kids at STARS weren't so worried about what happens there after hours.

"I don't, because I know it's a good place, so that party was probably random," one dad said.

"I'm sure it wouldn't go on while the children are here. I don't get that type of feel from going in," Una Benitez told us while picking up her granddaughters.

But the city is taking action to lessen liability to taxpayers.

Now, renters must buy insurance 30 days ahead of the event. Party hosts must also name the facility as an insured party, which wasn't the case for the May 25 party.

Another email shows City Manager Saeed Kazemi ordered that the STARS pool must be off limits if alcohol is being served. A human resources employee emailed that the city is "Not willing to take on the liability of alcohol by the pool" and that "there has been a disconnect between risk and recreation that we are now fixing."

"I think what you're looking at is risk getting to see all the documents that have to do with a facility, renting a facility and making sure we're all on the same page in regard to that document," Moulton said.

Moulton also said the city is hiring a consultant to review the city's special events and facility rental policies.

 

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