At a special meeting held by the Longboat Key Firefighter Pension Board of Trustees Wednesday, Sept. 15, Chairman Keith Tanner said the estimated $150,000 pension forensic investigation his board unanimously approved last month was not what the firefighters really wanted.
Tanner, a Longboat Key firefighter paramedic, made the announcement at the beginning of the meeting, which was originally scheduled to review proposals from five companies solicited to provide proposals for a forensic investigation of the entire pension plan.
But two of the companies declined to participate and the other three companies didn’t even bother to respond to the request.
But Tanner said it didn’t matter.
“It’s not what we wanted anyway,” Tanner said. “We don’t want an actuarial review of the audit. We want a fiduciary review done of all of the parties in the past.”
Tanner told those in attendance that the firefighters wanted Sarasota-based Benchmark Financial Services to perform a study that would analyze all the decisions made by the board, its attorneys and its actuaries.
Benchmark turned down the request for the original proposal, Tanner said, because it doesn’t perform actuarial review.
“They (Benchmark) are strictly a firm that does fiduciary reviews, looking into all parties involved and all aspects of the pension itself,” said Tanner, before making a motion to engage the company to perform such a study for $50,000.
Pension board trustee and Key resident Shannon Gault was hesitant to approve the motion at first.
“The focus of the inquiry appears to be all about conflicts of interest, breaches in professional standards and wrongdoings involving fiduciaries,” Gault said. “This all seems to be aiming toward who did something wrong.”
Tanner, however, said Benchmark also has actuaries on staff that review all the decisions made.
Town Manager Bruce St. Denis was disappointed with Tanner’s motion and asked to see a copy of a petition, which included 28 signatures from firefighters, that was supposedly produced by firefighter paramedic Frank Stoudt at the Aug. 25 meeting.
“I want to see what the membership actually requested,” said St. Denis, who noted that the petition was not included as part of the record last month.
St. Denis said he was also concerned the board was considering engaging a company to perform a study based on a four-paragraph letter.
“We are looking at a letter acting as a proposal that is $50,000 and will have be funded, essentially, by the taxpayers of the town,” St. Denis said. “In my administration, this would not be sufficient.”
The comments irked Tanner.
“This isn’t your decision, it’s the board’s decision,” Tanner said.
Tanner said this new study must be done because suspicions have grown and
“There are so many twists and turns and blame has been put here and there, and we feel our pensions are in jeopardy,” Tanner said. “I don’t understand why everyone is in such a fuss about this. If no one did anything wrong, this will clear everyone’s name.”
When the board’s attorney, Bob Sugarman, said the board had the right to engage Benchmark and would review a proposal at a later date, the board approved the decision by a vote of 4-0. Pension board trustee Arnold Malasky was absent from the meeting.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].