Longboat Key firefighter/paramedic Daniel Taylor further escalated a growing feud between the firefighters and town officials last month, by filing an ethics complaint against commissioners and the town manager.
The Dec. 29 complaint alleges that Mayor George Spoll and Commissioners David Brenner, Lynn Larson and Phillip Younger interfered with the Firefighters Pension Board and stalled a forensic investigation of the pension plan that’s now under way.
A separate ethics complaint was also filed against Town Manager Bruce St. Denis and Foster & Foster pension board actuaries Brad Heinrich and Doug Lozen.
Taylor claims the commissioners, the town manager and the actuaries listed were involved in a conflict of interest when the commission voted to make 2008 actuarial revisions to all three pension plans at an April 15 meeting “in order to assist and balance a budget deficit,” the complaint states.
By asking the state to disqualify pension actuarial impact statements in April, the town erased a $3 million funding shortfall and only had to put an additional $200,000 into the plans.
The revisions were made last year after no one from the town’s thee pension plans took advantage of early-out retirement options.
“There is a clear conflict of interest between the Firefighters Pension Board and their actuary, Brad Heinrich, who is working behind closed doors to help balance the town’s budgets using pension funds,” wrote Taylor in his complaint. “The named commissioners have caused an investigation into these actions and others to be delayed by over 90 days.”
The complaint states that the town’s budget deficits “tap into employee pension funds and the unfunded liabilities created are subsequently used against employees as an excuse for the need to decrease pension benefits in negotiations and impasse.
“The commissioners’ bias has clouded their judgment by impeding an investigation that will prove the town manager and actuary Heinrich’s actions are balancing town budgets and are a conflict of interest.”
Town attorney David Persson sent a Jan. 14 letter to the commissioners named in the complaint and stated he has reviewed the facts and believes no violation of the town’s ethics code has been committed.
“Most of the complaint is conclusory, without specific facts regarding the specific conduct that would give rise to a possible ethical violation,” Persson wrote. “I find no probable cause to believe that you have violated the code of ethics of the town of Longboat Key under the facts alleged in the complaint and recommend to the town clerk that this matter be closed.”
Persson told the Longboat Observer that because he has dismissed the challenge, Taylor’s only course of action would be to file a civil lawsuit against the parties involved or file a separate ethics complaint with the state’s ethics commission.
Taylor told the Longboat Observer he will wait to find out the outcome of the town manager’s complaint before commenting on the issue (Persson told Taylor he cannot file a complaint against the actuaries, only the town manager).
A separate attorney, as mandated by town code, will handle the town manager’s complaint.
Neither the commissioners named, nor the town manager, wished to comment regarding the complaint.
Listed below are some of the claims made in Taylor’s complaint:
• “The general welfare of the future Longboat Key taxpayers and current employees has been affected by the gross mismanagement of the town of Longboat Key. The town budget deficits tap into employee pension funds and the unfunded liabilities created are subsequently used against employees as an excuse for the need to decrease pension benefits in negotiations and impasse.”
• “Over the last two years the town’s (wage increases) and cost of living allowances have been frozen town-wide and blamed on the economy and unfunded liability of the pension. Three years prior, the millage rate was lowered, while health insurance costs for employees with families were raised 1,110% in one year.”
• “Commissioner Younger’s bias towards the pension board has even been boasted about in the local paper. Commissioners Brenner, Larson, Younger and Mayor Spoll’s predetermined bias reflects in their clouded judgment and refusal to recognize the firefighters of Longboat Key’s rights in Article II, section 8 of the Florida Constitution.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org