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Longboat Key Wednesday, Mar. 3, 2010 7 years ago

Pension board stalemate ends

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The stalemate that was brewing on the firefighter retirement system board of trustees is over.

The board, which was made up of two Key residents and two firefighters, elected Longboat Key Fire Rescue Lt. Michael Murphy to the seat for another two-year term that expires Oct. 31, 2011.

The vote at the board’s Feb. 24 meeting gives the firefighters the majority of the pension board seats.

The town’s three retirement boards each require two town employees and two Key residents, with the fifth board member selected by the board.

But the residents and firefighters on the firefigher pension board could not reach a majority on whom to select for the last three months because each group wanted majority.

Key resident Ronald Vale and resident Arnold Malasky had previously voted for resident Shannon Gault at several meetings.

And firefighter pension Chairman Keith Tanner and firefighter Brandon Desch had consistently voted for Murphy, an eight-year pension board member whose latest term expired in November 2009.

Murphy has also entered the town’s deferred retirement option plan (DROP), which allows employees to collect pensions while still working.

Town staff and some residents have questioned whether a firefighter who is collecting his pension should be allowed to make decisions that affect the plan.

Because the board was split, board attorney Pedro Herrera said last year that Murphy could stay on as a board member until the board could reach a consensus.

Murphy’s seat was solidified last week when Vale changed his vote and voted for Murphy. Vale then resigned from the board at the end of the meeting.

Vale told The Longboat Observer after the meeting that he changed his mind because he was tired of dealing with the point of contention.

“Had Shannon Gault been there, I may have changed my mind,” Vale said. “But why continue with that kind of situation? It needed to be resolved.”

Vale submitted a resignation letter to Finance Director Tom Kelley, citing personal reasons. He served on the board for two quarterly meetings and one special meeting.

Meanwhile, Gault, who has attended pension board meetings in the past, said she was unable to attend the latest meeting because of a prior commitment.

“It’s unfortunate the firefighters now retain control of their pension,” Gault said. “I totally understand what they are trying to do, but I don’t think they are doing themselves any favors.”

Gault said she was hoping the firefighters “would take a leap of faith.”

Gault, who still hopes to join the pension board, could be appointed by the Town Commission to replace
Vale’s vacant seat at its Thursday, March 25 regular workshop.

“There are residents on this Key who could use their services to help the pension plan,” said Gault, a former banking official with pension-plan experience. “It’s time for a different perspective.”

Pension Questions Tabled
Firefighter pension board Chairman Keith Tanner told the board Feb. 24 that due to a family emergency, the union’s consultant has been unable to review the questions the union has regarding the town’s pension and its unfunded liability.

The questions were presented to the union consultant in an attempt to address the union’s concerns and avoid spending plan money to perform an audit.

Tanner, who is also a firefighter/paramedic and district vice president of the union, told his fellow board members last month he has lost faith in Foster & Foster, the town’s actuary.

Tanner asked the board to consider an audit of the firefighter pension, which is expected to cost more than $100,000.

But pension board member and former pension actuary Arnold Malasky spent more than an hour addressing a list of 17 questions presented at the pension board’s November board meeting.

Tanner will let the board know at its next meeting if the union has issues with the answers provided by Malasky.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]

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