News Section: Local Government
County Commission Plans to Offer Hunzeker Significant Pay Increase Tuesday
BRADENTON -- A combination of a significantly higher base salary, larger deferred compensation payments and a more generous leave package will make Ed Hunzeker's proposed contract, which will go before the Manatee County Board of Commissioners at a public meeting Tuesday, considerably more expensive to Manatee County taxpayers. The new five-year contract stands to cost Manatee County taxpayers over $300,000 in additional compensation to Hunzeker – not counting costs associated with the administrator's participation in the DROP program that the county would be liable for.
The contract, drafted by board chair Larry Bustle, would increase Hunzeker's salary by $34,424.00 to $203,548.80, plus cost of living adjustments. It would include an additional $5,400 for using his personal automobile when working in the county, while providing for a county vehicle should he need to travel outside of Manatee for county business, as well as an additional $150,000 in life insurance paid by the county beyond that which is offered normal county employees. Both of those benefits were included in his previous contract.
Currently, the county pays 5 percent of Hunzeker's base salary in deferred compensation. Under the new contract, they would be on the hook for the maximum IRS amount allowed each year, plus any "catch-up" payments that Hunzeker would be eligible for. The maximum deferred compensation amount for employees over 50 in 2013 is $23,000. Hunzeker has nearly two years remaining on his current contract, which expires in November of 2014. Hunzeker planned to retire in August of 2014, at the end of his five-year term in DROP.
Hunzeker would have received a lump sum payment at that time, amounting to just under $340,000 in retirement benefits held while he was in DROP, which will now be forfeited by his leaving DROP to work with an FRS participating employer beyond the 5-year maximum DROP limit. Under his new contract, he will be re-enrolled in the Florida Retirement System and still receive a monthly retirement benefit of over $6,000 a month when he does retire, while the county will have to make back payments on FRS contributions for the period Hunzeker was in DROP, amounting to additional taxpayer costs.
While Bustle paints maintaining Hunzeker as essential to the county's best interests, some Manatee County citizens aren't buying it. "What special interest has the most to gain by Ed Hunzeker remaining for another five years as county administrator?," asked Manatee County citizen Richard McNulty. "Mosaic and developers who need county staff to look the other way as they destroy the wetlands and endanger our future water supply." McNulty sees Hunzeker's retention as a way to maintain the status quo for influential special interests.
DROP was initiated as a cost-saving measure that would encourage senior public employees eligible for retirement to make room for younger replacements, who would presumably cost less. Once FRS employees are eligible for retirement, they can enter DROP and start a five-year retirement clock, during which time they receive both their regular compensation, as well as their retirement benefit, which is held in trust, earning a hard to come by 6.5 percent in interest. The accrued amount is paid out in lump sum at the end of the five years, when they also begin receiving their monthly benefit directly.
A loophole even allows them to return to employment with an FRS participant, provided it occurrs at least six months after their "retirement" date. This process has been dubbed "double dipping," as the employee is then directly receiving a public salary and public retirement at the same time. In many cases, Florida employees have come back to the same very position, which has sometimes been held vacant during their six-month "retirement."
The new contract would also enhance Hunzeker's opportunity to accumulate and cash in on unused personal, sick and "compensatory" leave time. While Hunzeker's previous contract tended to more closely follow the guidelines set for other county personnel in this regard, the new contract gives him increased leave time along with more favorable options when it comes to cashing in unused time. It also adds a vague category of "compensatory leave," which is described as being related to "emergency or unexpected work required of the administrator in excess of normal work hours."
The contract provides for an additional three weeks of such leave, with no limit on year-to-year carry over. He would be eligible to cash in up to six weeks worth of unused "compensatory leave" upon his retirement, in addition to the three weeks of unused vacation time he can cash in each year and more than 10 weeks of unused sick time that may be cashed in upon retirement. The portion of the proposed contract describing leave time and payouts appears below. To read the entire contract, click here.
E. Sick Leave: On the Effective Date and on each anniversary date hereafter, County shall credit to ADMINISTRATOR’S beginning sick leave balance sick leave credits in the amount of one hundred twenty (120) hours. There shall be no limitation placed on the amount of sick leave that may be carried over from one year to the next. Upon termination of contract, payment will be made to ADMINISTRATOR for one half (1/2) of unused sick leave up to a maximum of four hundred twenty (420) hours. This benefit is in lieu of, and not in addition to, any leave award or pay-out policies the COUNTY may adopt as to its non-contract employees. However, all balances credited to the ADMINISTRATOR prior to the Effective Date shall remain in said account for the benefit of and use by ADMINISTRATOR. The ADMINISTRATOR is deemed to be a "key employee" for purposes of administration of FMLA policies.
F. Compensatory Leave: On the Effective Date and on each anniversary date hereafter, COUNTY shall credit to ADMINISTRATOR’S beginning compensatory leave balance compensatory leave credits in the amount of one hundred twenty (120) hours for emergency or unexpected work required of the ADMINISTRATORin excess of normal work hours. There shall be no limitation placed on the amount of compensatory leave that may be carried over from one year to the next. Upon termination of contract, payment will be made to ADMINISTRATOR for a maximum of two hundred and forty (240) hours of unused compensatory leave.