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Town nixes ex manager’s health care request; Commissioner Larson ‘outraged’

Commissioner Lynn Larson argued passionately against Former Town Manager Bruce St. Denis’ request.

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

A request by former town manager Bruce St. Denis to reclassify his separation from the town as ‘retirement,’ was stopped in its tracks last Monday at the regular town commission meting. The request by St. Denis would allow him to continue to be part of the group’s town health insurance plan and continue his right under Cobra law which has allowed him to purchase the health insurance for 18 months following his separation from the town in the fall of 2011.

When St. Denis left, it was under pressure that a majority of the commission would vote to terminate his contract. In St. Denis’ contract, when the town terminated him without cause, he was entitled to a $250,000 severance payment. If St. Denis were to have retired, he would not have been entitled to that amount.

The agreement that St. Denis and the town finalized was technically called a ‘separation agreement’ but in fact it fell under the classification of a termination, since that was the only mechanism in which the town could have the authority to pay St. Denis the $250,000.

Fast forward to today, and St. Denis’ Cobra health insurance is due to expire at the end of April. That is what prompted St. Denis to inquire if such a reclassification could be accomplished.

St. Denis

At the meeting, Mayor Jim Brown opened by saying that St. Denis had made such a request and he wanted to commission to allow Town Manager David Bullock to gather additional information such as any issues regarding liability, legality, and precedent. But it never got that far.

Commissioner Lynn Larson spent upwards of 30 minutes at the meeting detailing the many reasons why the town should not consider St. Denis’ request.

Larson said, “This is in extremely poor taste…The former town manager has cost us enough money already. We have already run up attorney time.”

Town Attorney David Persson explained, “the only way the town could pay St.Denis the severance pay was through a termination without cause. This commission was very careful in how it worded the agreement.”

Larson immediately asked for someone to tell her how many hundreds of thousands of dollars had been paid when St. Denis left.

Commissioner Pat Zunz also did not agree with the St. Denis request and said, “It was advantageous at the time and now he is trying to get another advantage.”

Town Manager David Bullock then asked the commission if the board wanted him to continue to look into the matter. Commissioner Terry Gans said he was not opposed to looking into it, so see if it was something the commission wanted to do.

Then Bullock said his intent was to come back by April 15 meeting, with a report or recommendation.

But Larson was not happy with that outcome, and again raised many objections, “He left it a very lucrative contract, and now, a year and a half later, he’s back and now is saying ‘Oh I left one thing at the counter.’”

Mayor Jim Brown told Larson that the town was not looking to change his contract at all and is not asking the town to pay for his insurance. He said St. Denis said he only wants to reclassify his status to ‘retired’ so he can buy insurance in the town’s pool.

Longboat Key resident Richard Hershatter approached the podium and told the commission in defense of St. Denis, “It is something that won’t make a big difference to the town, but it will to him. Apparently there is some vitriol, but he did give you 14 years. Her shatter said its been cleared with the insurance company and its simply an option that’s up to you.”

Larson consented. She said that she had “no problem changing St. Denis’ mode of retirement, so long as he gives his $250,000 back.”

Then Larson suggested residents could use a good class action attorney to sue the commission over payments made to St. Denis.

That is when Bullock said St. Denis received $268,364 in severance pay. Larson made a motion to table any further discussion or staff time being spent on the St. Denis issue, and Zuni seconded the motion.

Commissioners Zuni, Duncan, Terry Gans, and Vice Mayor David Brenner all voted yes with Larson. Mayor Jim Brown and Commissioner Phill Younger voted against her motion.

Brown ended the issue after the vote in saying, “So we have finished the discussion; we are not granting St. Denis his wish.

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2 Responses for “Town nixes ex manager’s health care request; Commissioner Larson ‘outraged’”

  1. William Kary says:

    Bruce worked for 14 years for Longboat and Larson has been here how long? Small town, BIG EGOS seem to prevail. But, one gets what they pay for on this commission…

  2. Mike Heller says:

    Good for you Ms. Larson! Don’t let these oligarchists squander away the future of Longboat.

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