Support The Crespogram
NUMBER 25 - FEBRUARY 19, 2019
IN MIAMI SHORES, THE LOCAL COPS ARE UPSET OVER THE PROPOSED CHANGES TO THEIR PENSION PLAN. THE ITEM IS UP FOR A 2ND READING AT THE VILLAGE COUNCIL MEETING TONIGHT AND IT MIGHT BEHOOVE YOU TO PAY ATTENTION BECAUSE ONE OF THE ALLEGATIONS IS THAT VILLAGE MANAGER TOM BENTON IS PULLING A FAST THAT THAT WILL ALLLOW HIM TO WALK AWAY WITH HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS
HERE IS A COPY OF THE LETTER THAT WAS SENT TO THE VILLAGE COUNCIL TODAY
This email addresses proposed ordinance 2019-01.
Attached you will find a letter in which I have outlined several reasons why the proposed ordinance will negatively impact our community and the officers of Miami Shores.
While conducting research pertinent to this ordinance, I have discovered several disturbing discrepancies that must be adequately addressed:
1. The GRS Impact Study, dated November 14, 2018, states, “retired members who subsequently return to work for the Village continue receiving monthly pension benefits and do not accrue additional benefits.” Chapter 185 of the Florida State Statutes and our own corresponding Village ordinance both state that the only person exempt from contributing to a police pension plan is the Chief of Police. Therefore, according to the aforementioned impact study of the proposed ordinance, the Village will be in blatant violation of not only of its own ordinance (Police Officers Retirement System Sec. 18-84, “Membership shall be mandatory condition of employment”) but also Chapter 185 F.S.S. Additionally, the impact study states, “A copy of this letter and the ordinance should be sent to the Division of Retirement before the final public hearing on the ordinance.” Did the Village or any council member contact the Division of Retirement for consultation on this proposed ordinance and the study completed by GRS? If so, please provide any documentation submitted to the Division of Retirement, any written and the substance of any verbal response there to. If not, then the only appropriate course of action is to pass the reading until such time that the Division of Retirement can provide feedback on the legitimacy of both the proposed ordinance and the impact study.
2. After reviewing the Agenda Packet dated February 19, 2019, I observed that the language of the proposed ordinance was changed between the first and second readings. The final sentence of the first paragraph of the second reading, “However, such member shall accrue no additional benefits under the plan.” is not contained within the first reading. I am compelled to note that within the same agenda packet, a provided letter composed by Carson & Adkins and addressed to the council states: “The IRS recently informed the Village of its acceptance of our proposed correction method, which requires the Village adoption of the subject pension ordinance. It is important to note that the IRS’s acceptance is predicated upon the Village’s adoption of the precise proposed amendment, the language of which has been dictated by the IRS.” Which version of the ordinance did the IRS accept, the first version or the second version? If the IRS requires the “precise proposed amendment”, as they specifically dictated, why has the language changed? As of the pension meeting on January 29 2019, the language had not changed. Did the pension attorney approve of this added language? Did the IRS approve of this added language?
It is important to understand that this ordinance is being pushed for adoption primarily by the Village Manager. It is also important to understand that the sole beneficiary of this ordinance change is the Village Manager. His motivation to do so is made evident by the following events: the Village Manager “retired” approximately four years ago. He was well aware then that the Village was in violation of the IRS code. For this reason, he chose not to collect from his pension or DROP as every other employee typically does.
What is the Village Manager looking at now? A massive payday, to be blunt. The aforementioned Carson & Adkins letter states that the Village retained a “Highly qualified tax attorney with a prominent Florida Law Firm” who advised “In other words, the amendments retroactively permit Plan distributions for retired members who have terminated employment after attaining normal retirement age have been re-employed by the Village”. The only Village employee who has not received Plan distributions as a retired member is the Village Manager. In other words, he will be entitled to back pay of his pension benefits and his DROP account. That will constitute a lump sum payout in excess of $800,000 and an additional 6,000 per year thereafter. This is in addition to the 70,000, plus executive benefits package he already receives from the Village.
I feel compelled to note that the “Highly qualified tax attorney” is Richard E. Burke, Esq. and he is referred to via that description in the letter quite deliberately. Mr. Burke charged the Village 40,000 for his work on this matter. An examination of his letter addressed to the Village Manager contained in the November 6th 2018 agenda packet reveals that he does not identify the “Prominent Florida Law Firm” for which he is employed. This omission appears entirely intentional when you consider that the law firm in question is “Gray/Robinson Attorneys at Law”, the very same firm that a current Councilman is or was a partner for during this engagement. This is a very obvious and blatant conflict of interest to say the least and it is yet another disturbing aspect of the process of how this ordinance came to be composed and the motivations for its ratification, specifically with the council election 6 weeks away.
In the interest of transparency for the residents and taxpayers of the Village these discrepancies and conflicts need to be addressed. We are asking the council to understand this information before ratifying this proposed ordinance. Please see the attached letter, signed by the officers of the Miami Shores Police Department, opposing the passing of this ordinance change.
President of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 63