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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 8 years ago

Town pension board divided on seat decision

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

There’s a stalemate brewing for the firefighter retirement system board of trustees.

The board, currently made up of two Key residents and two firefighters, is split down the middle on whom to elect to its fifth board seat.

Firefighter Lt. Michael Murphy, who formerly held the fifth board seat, has entered the town’s deferred retirement option plan (DROP), which allows employees to collect pensions while still working.

Murphy, an eight-year retirement board member, still wants to retain his seat on the board.

And, at the pension board’s quarterly meeting Wednesday, Nov. 18, firefighters Keith Tanner (the board’s chairman) and Brandon Desch voted to give Murphy another two-year term.

But board members and Key residents Arnold Malasky and Ronald Vale voted to give resident Shannon Gault the seat.

Because the board was split down the middle, board attorney Pedro Herrera said Murphy will stay on as a board member until the board can reach a majority vote.

“The board must nominate the fifth trustee,” Herrera said. “If the fifth trustee remains unfilled, the incumbent remains in place until a majority vote is made.”

Herrera’s decision, however, was questioned.

Town Manager Bruce St. Denis told the board it was the town clerk’s understanding that Murphy would stay on only if there is a need for a quorum and not for other purposes.

Town Attorney David Persson was asked to render his opinion, and he determined Herrera’s initial ruling was correct.

Persson presented Town Clerk Trish Granger with a ruling handed down by Attorney General Robert Butterworth, who concluded in May 1999 that the fifth member of the Coral Springs police pension board member was not required to continue in office but could hold over as a de facto officer until a successor had been selected and qualified.

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

Although Granger said that, historically, the town’s three pension boards have had majority control by town employees, residents have begun to show an interest in the seats, and more applications have been submitted for board seats than usual. Three people submitted applications this year for the firefighter pension board.

Meanwhile, at least two Key residents in attendance made their voices heard at the pension board meeting last month to express displeasure with the decision.

“I think it’s important for you folks to bring an outsider onto this board,” said Key resident Don Mayer. “We are going through some financial difficulties in this town, and someone else should review what’s going on.”

Country Club Shores resident Jim Larson agreed.

“You’re still an employee if you are in the DROP plan,” Larson said. “I think there’s a prejudice to adopt things more favorably to the firefighters. The pension board should not be made up of all employees.”

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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