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Editorial Letters – Week ending November 1, 2019

Longboat Key News encourages Letters to the Editor on timely issues. Please email to: letters@lbknews.com or mail to PO Box 8001, Longboat Key, FL 34228. We also print letters sent to Town Hall that address Longboat Key issues. We reserve the right to edit.

The Bay project

To: Longboat Key Commissioner Jack Daly

We at the Bay Park Conservancy appreciate your support and ongoing encouragement.

With unanimous city commission approval of the implementation plan for the first 10 acre phase of the bay park, we are preparing a site plan application for City Commission approval.

The Park Conservancy and its design and planning team continue to believe that an overpass connecting the future park with the Rosemary district and other neighborhoods to the east will significantly improve safe access, enable better connectivity and result in greater park use.

We continue to discuss and work this option with the Planning and Development department. Overpasses were in fact included in the overall park master plan approved by the City Commission last September.

Again, we appreciate your individual and the Longboat Key commissioners’ ongoing support and advocacy for at least testing an overpass connecting the park to the city.

Lori Denny

Project Coordinator

The Bay Park Conservancy, Inc.

 

The Bay project

To: Project Coordinator Lori Denny

Please confirm my appreciation to CEO AG Lafley for his encouraging response with respect to pedestrian overpasses presently under consideration in the Bay Project. Be assured that we will continue our efforts to support their inclusion in Phase 1.

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Town of Longboat Key

 

Communication from vendor

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

I understand that earlier today you each received an email from a Town vendor (Municipal CMS) requesting your assistance in an invoicing matter associated with certain website service(s) provided to the Town’s IT Department.  Please do not respond to the vendor’s communication.  All communications with this vendor (or other Town vendors) relating to contractual matters and disputes should occur through the Town Manager (or his designated Staff) and/or my office  (as needed).

Rest assured that the Town Manager, Jason Keen and David Jackson and I are working on resolving  the issue(s) raised in the communication in an appropriate manner.  If you have any questions or concerns about this communication, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Maggie D. Mooney

Town Attorney

Town of Longboat Key

 

Communication from vendor

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

I understand that the vendor (Municipal CMS) has recently transmitted another email communication to you relating to an outstanding invoice dispute between their company and the Town.  The Town Manager, the Town’s IT Director, David Jackson and I continue to work through the dispute and issue with this particular vendor.

The vendor’s  recent communication with you is not appropriate.  The vendor should be directing their communications to the Town Manager as he is the Town’s purchasing agent for good and services pursuant to the Town Charter.  Please continue to refrain from responding to communications from this vendor while the Town Manager and my office work through this matter.

If you have any questions about this matter, please do not hesitate to contact either me or the Town Manager. Thank you.

Maggie D. Mooney

Town Attorney

Town of Longboat Key

 

Longboat Police Officer Josh Connors returns missing boat

To: Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming

I want to thank the department in general, and Officer Connors in particular, for rescuing my boat that broke away from our dock.

I was pleasantly surprised when Officer Connors showed up Sunday afternoon, having rescued the boat and tied it to our dock, for I had no idea the boat was missing!

We are grateful.  Thank you, Officer Connors. Best wishes.

George Rauch

Longboat Key

 

Longboat Police Officer Josh Connors returns missing boat

To: Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming

Chief, thanks for forwarding- great customer service!

Please pass my appreciation to Officer Connors for a job well done.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Village parking

To: Planning and Zoning Director Allen Parsons

Villagers and the public seeking parking spaces on Broadway are becoming more and more frustrated. Residents are told by police that the lines drawn on the street are ‘suggestions’ for where to park; not legal parking spaces. Vehicles extended over the lines into setback triangular spaces are legally parked. When text amendments were written and passed into law last June, what was/is lacking in the wording?  Or lacking in the signage? What has to be done to create enforceable code?  Angry, ugly shouting matches between residents and the public is no way to live! Please advise.

Carla Rowan

Longboat Key

 

Village parking

To: Carla Rowan

Carla, thanks for the email. I did meet today with Allen as well with our Public Works Director and Police Chief. Allen will be reaching out to you to follow-up on our discussions and to set up an opportunity for the staff to meet with you to further discuss your concerns and the Town’s current enforcement efforts.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Longboat Village parking

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

The Town has received several complaints in the past week or so about parking violations within the Village and speeding on Broadway St. The Chief has provided an update below on their monitoring and enforcement efforts.

In addition to their increased directed patrol within the Village, the Department will be meeting with Planning and Public Works to review the current code, street markings, signage, etc. to see if any further actions or clarifications that may assist them in their enforcement.  The Police Department has also been documenting traffic data with our digital traffic analysis device and are moving forward with plans to purchase a portable radar speed sign to alert residents to their speed of travel. I have asked the Chief to keep me informed of their efforts and will provide updates as I receive them.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Longboat Village parking

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

Longboat Key Police Department continues to monitor, record and enforce parking code and speed statutes throughout the Longboat Village.  With the addition of the Shore Restaurant and the approaching seasonal population increase, coupled with concerns regarding excessive speed on Broadway, and parking violations throughout the village neighborhood, additional enforcement resources were committed.

Beginning in September the Police Department increased directed patrol throughout the village.  Additional patrols were assigned to identify vehicles improperly parked and initially issue warnings or citations as appropriate.  Officers were also stationed along Broadway operating radar speed equipment; offenders were issued citations as appropriate.  The Police Department placed a digital traffic analysis device at a stationary location on Broadway.  This device captures data, to include accurately recording the total number of vehicles and speeds traveled.  The data is documented and once downloaded, is used to determine the nature of traffic volume and pattern.

After looking at the data gathered and speaking with village residents the Police Department is taking the following actions:

• Continue to maintain directed patrol assignment enforcing both speed and parking restricting

• Continue recording traffic volume and patterns through season as impacted by the Shore

• Purchase of a Portable radar speed sign to alert motorists of posted speed and speed traveled.

• Meet with Planning, Zoning, & Building Department and the Public Works Department to address questions regarding parking by more clearly defining restrictions and where parking is permitted, specifically relating to driveway and intersection: Chapter 72.01(6), & 72.01(8)

I will provide periodic updates on our continued enforcement efforts as we work through the season and will coordinate any recommended code changes with Allen Parsons.

Pete Cumming

Chief of Police

Longboat Key Police Department

 

Municipal CMS wants payment…

To: Sarasota City Commission

I understand that you have been asked not to respond to my previous email regarding the town’s unpaid invoice. I hope that does not mean that you will ignore it.

MunicipalCMS is a family-owned business. We work hard for our clients. When Mr. Gaines instructed us to begin the redesign work, we did. A few days later when he asked us to expedite the work, we did.

It has been over a year since we invested our time and resources in that work. It has been more than five months since we learned that the town would not be following through with the redesign and promptly sent the invoice for the work that had already been completed.

In that time we have received no payment for our work and only two emails from Attorney David Jackson explaining the town’s reluctance to pay. Though we have provided facts that counter each of the objections outlined by Mr. Jackson, the invoice remains unpaid.

The contract is clear. The annual fee only includes the Content Management System license, website hosting, and technical support. The first 20 hours of redesign services are only provided at no charge with the two-year extension. Mr. Gaines’ instructions were clear, “We’d like to stay with you. So let’s start with 3 different home pages.” We upheld our end of the agreement by providing the work as instructed. The fact that the IT staff later changed their minds about the redesign does not relieve the town of its responsibility to uphold its end of the agreement.

I have held the Town of Longboat Key in high regard for years – bringing my family to the island for summer vacations since my children were small. This summer, it was difficult to enjoy that long-standing tradition. The irregularities surrounding this bid solicitation, while troubling, are not my concern. The town’s refusal to reimburse my company for the use of our time and resources, however, is unsettling. I hope that you will rectify the situation and see that the town fulfills its obligation to MunicipalCMS.

I appreciate your assistance and look forward to your reply.

Toni Oesterle

Director of Client Services

Municipal CMS LLC

 

Municipal CMS

To: Sarasota City Commission

I am requesting your assistance with an unpaid invoice for services rendered to the Town of Longboat Key IT department.

In 2011, the town hired our company to build, host and support its website. The contract included a clause giving the town the option to refresh the appearance of the website every two years at no extra charge – specifically, up to 20 hours of free redesign services by simply renewing the contract for two additional years. After 20 hours, the work would be billed at our hourly rate.

In 2015 and several times since, the IT staff contacted us about the free redesign. Each time the IT department decided not to update the site.

On October 3, 2018 we received an email from Barry Gaines saying that the town was ready to move forward with the update “for real this time.” He said they would like to stay with MunicipalCMS and instructed us to begin by creating three specific design mock-ups based on websites from other vendors and provide a quote for the cost to the town. (The town could have upgraded to one of our existing design templates at no charge.) A few days later, he followed up with another email urging us to expedite the process.

Taking Mr. Gaines at his word, that the town was finally moving forward with the redesign, we proceeded in good faith in accordance with the contract and began the work. On October 16, 2018, we sent the design mock-ups to Mr. Gaines. No invoice was sent at the time as the first 20 hours of design time would be free with the contract extension.

Months later, the IT department apparently changed their minds about the redesign and began soliciting proposals from other website vendors. On May 16, 2019 we were informed that the town had hired another vendor and would not be proceeding with the redesign after all. On May 24, 2019, we sent the invoice for the accrued time spent on the design mock-ups that Mr. Gaines requested. We still have not received payment.

Instead the town’s attorney, Mr. Jackson, has been responding to our requests for payment. Initially, he said the design mock-ups were requested as part of a procurement procedure. However, Mr. Gaines’ email mentioned nothing about soliciting bids. In fact, he clearly instructed us to begin the redesign. Furthermore, according to Mr. Jackson:

The town did not receive quotes from other vendors until December 2018 and February 2019. The work was requested on October 3, 2018.

No other vendors were instructed to provide design mock-ups of these or any other websites. No other vendors provided design mock-ups at all.

Mr. Jackson expressed concern that Mr. Gaines was not given a quote for the design mock-ups and that the invoice was not sent in October.

Per the contract, the first 20 hours of work are free with the contract extension.

Mr. Gaines stated, in writing, that they wanted to stay with MunicipalCMS.

We were following the contract. There would be no need to invoice the town for anything until the 20 hours were used up.

Finally, Mr. Jackson said it was his understanding that the town had to seek out additional quotes for the website services as the need for website ADA compliance became apparent.

We were never asked to provide a quote or a proposal for addressing the town’s ADA concerns.

ADA accessibility services are not part of the contract with the new website vendor.

It is my understanding that the town will contract separately with a third-party vendor whose accessibility services are compatible with the town’s current website and could have been deployed on the current website the same day the town became aware of the need for website ADA compliance.

While I can certainly sympathize with the town not wanting to pay for design mock-ups it no longer wants, the fact remains that town staff instructed us to perform the work under the premise that they planned to stay with MunicipalCMS. We only provided the work without the invoice because Mr. Gaines said the town would be staying with us. In fairness, we are not requesting payment for a two-year renewal. We are only asking to be paid for the work we performed at the direction of town staff.

I have attached Mr. Gaines’ October 3, 2018 email authorizing the work and the unpaid invoice. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can be of further assistance.

In the eight years we have provided services to the town, this is the first time we have had any issue.  Thank you in advance for your help resolving it.

Toni Oesterle

Director of Client Services

Municipal CMS LLC

 

Strand project

To: Melinda

I just wanted you to know that I received a comment from someone in the Tahiti Park neighborhood concerned about the dust from construction of The Strand (or probably more likely the dust from the removal of the trees) and I relayed this to the Deputy City Manager and he contacted the necessary staff to make sure this is not an issue moving forward. Just an FYI.

Please feel free to share with the neighborhood if necessary. Also, if there are any concerns going forwarded, you can always contact me and copy the City Manager and Deputy City Manager (copied on this email) and/or Jim Bridges (also copied on this email).

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Strand project

To: Director Development Services Sarasota Timothy Litchet

I performed a site visit at 11:30 and spoke with Chase from Aroxx (site contractor) he had watered down the site prior to my arrival. I toke a video prior to entering site which does not indicate excessive dust. Chase did explain he watered down because it was getting dusty. He will stay on top of keeping the dust down and I will follow up on site conditions.

Mat Taylor

Deputy Building Official

City of Sarasota

 

Strand project

To: Sarasota Building Official Larry Murphy

The Vice Mayor is concerned with the amount of dust being generated by the Strand project.  If one of you could call Jim Bridges and just ask them to make sure they are doing all that is reasonable to control dust I would appreciate it. Just have your inspectors also keep an eye out when they are doing inspections there.

Timothy Litchet

Director Development Services

City of Sarasota

 

Kumquat Court

To: Sarasota City Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Marlon suggested I contact you to discuss our project at 430 Kumquat Court.  I’ll be glad to come by.  I am leaving with my students tomorrow afternoon to go to Copenhagen.  I could meet with you in the morning.  Otherwise, I will be back in town on Monday October 28th.  I’ve included below some text that we wrote to describe the project.    

The Project consists of 22 residential condominium units over surface parking accessed from the alley. Twelve of the proposed 22 residential units are under 1,250 sf. Thirteen residential units (60 percent) are 2-bedroom units offering a smaller condominium unit type that is often missing in our downtown. Smaller unit types can help better ensure the affordability of a city over the long-term. Two retail spaces will line the sidewalk along Kumquat Court bringing life and pedestrian activity along the street. The retail will entirely shield the parking from view. An 8’ deep awning will provide shade and celebrate the main entrance. A larger sidewalk width than is required by code and six canopy trees will line the street. The canopy trees will consist of gumbo limbos and royal poincianas. The façade will be enlivened by a high-quality contrasting material as well as numerous balconies.

The residential units are accessed from the lobby off of the sidewalk on Kumquat. A small courtyard elevated over the parking is designed to allow residents to socialize and interact with their neighbors. All units are designed with terraces. The deep west-facing façade on the street provides relief from the afternoon sun creating balconies that extend 4’ beyond the face of the building. One balcony in each street facing unit is recessed an additional 4’ to create usable eight-foot depth. The balconies, the awnings, the wide sidewalks, and the proposed landscaping will enhance the livability and appearance of the neighborhood.

The proposed residential development is on Kumquat Court, one of the most problematic streets in the city of Sarasota.  The project would, as designed, significantly improve the nearby community and the street life.  Kumquat Court, home of the Resurrection House and of the Downtowner requires extensive police presence.  A patrol car is parked daily on Kumquat to monitor the street’s activities.  The proposed 22-condominium project would, by its relationship to the sidewalk, dramatically improve the perceived and measurable safety of Kumquat Court.

As Jane Jacobs put it in 1961 in her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, “in order for a street to be a safe place, there must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street.  The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to insure the safety of both residents and strangers, must be oriented to the street. They cannot turn their backs or blank sides on it and leave it blind.  And third, the sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity.”

The proposed development is entirely oriented toward the street itself.  Every residential unit facing the street has at least one balcony large enough to be furnished overlooking the sidewalk.  The residential development is accessed directly from the sidewalk.  The inviting lobby is transparent.  Its entrance is announced by a deep awning cantilevering over the sidewalk.  Small retail spaces line the sidewalk and shield the parking from view.  One such retail space may serve as the residents’ gym with floor the ceiling glass adjacent to the sidewalk.  Residents will be walking to and from downtown to enjoy the city’s amenities.    The design makes every effort to keep the ground floor as transparent as possible.   

Michael Halflants

Associate Professor

University of South Florida, Tampa

 

Kumquat Court

To: Michael Halflants

Thanks for your email. I realize you are still away, but if we could meet when you get back that would be much appreciated, and I do appreciate your time.

My schedule is a bit crazy, as well, but I am confident Diane will make it work.

I have copied the City Manager and appropriate staff along with Howard Davis.

Thanks again, have a safe trip, and I look forward to meeting with you soon!

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Outstanding Repairs – Zini property

To: David Arent

Reference to our e-mail dated October 8th (below) and the signed agreement

which you picked up on October 11. So far, no work has started.

Please, arrange the relevant works to be completed as soon as possible

because we really need to prepare the shop for the holiday seasons and have

planned a client gathering. It is important that the works are completed by

November 10th. David – If you please treat this as very urgent and confirm by end of  today the schedule.

Maria Alberta and Federico Zini

Sarasota

 

New vaping ordinance

To: Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines

I understand that you are familiar with the City of North Port ordinance on vaping and that you mentioned it might be brought up at a County Commission meeting with the intent of drafting a county wide ordinance that cities might be able to tack on to.

Please advise if this is something that you are working on and could be accomplished in the near future or would it be advisable to draft a city ordinance that parallels that or the City of North Port. As time and lives are of the essence, I wish to have council discuss this at our meeting on November 12. Additionally, I will communicate with the City of Sarasota so that they are aware of south county actions.

Thank you in advance for your prompt reply.

John Holic

Mayor

City of Venice

 

Request

To: Sarasota City Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I hope all is well. I would like to bring up the single use plastic and styrofoam restriction on city properties similar to what I read about yours. If we can get enough cities to get on board, perhaps there will be less State resistance. Would it be possible to have you request one from your staff for me? Thank you in advance and I appreciate your help.

John Holic

Mayor

City of Venice

 

Request

To: Venice Mayor John Holic

Hope you are well. Thanks for the email and the interest in this! I have copied the City Manager along with the Deputy City Manager and our Sustanibility Manager so they may respond with the necessary information! Let me know if you need anything else.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Restaurant Changes – Selby Gardens

To: Sarasota City Commission

Although the current Selby Botanical Garden matters before the City Commission do not include site plan considerations, the 25 percent downsizing of the potential restaurant was referenced at a couple of points during last Monday’s meeting.

To clarify and provide the details behind those statements, albeit they are only related background at this point as the information is more directly related to site plans,  I asked Ms. Rominiecki to clarify and provide my office with a summary and visual of those potential future site plan adjustments. Attached and below are her responses.

I am forwarding the information in case you might have had similar questions.   Thanks.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Restaurant Changes – Selby Gardens

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

As promised, attached is a document with schematic diagrams comparing the original proposed footprint of the restaurant in Selby Gardens’ Master Plan to the newly-reduced version.  On the top right is the original and the bottom right shows the updated diagram with the 25 percent reduction in overall area.  The diagram on the left is an aerial, illustrating that the restaurant occupies only a small percentage of the overall Sky Garden footprint.

Following is an approximate range of the numbers for the square footage and seats comparing the original restaurant approved by the Development Review Committee to the newly reduced version:

Original Restaurant

• approximately 6,000 square feet of “front-of house” publicly accessible dining space

• approximately 4,000 square feet of “back-of-house” kitchen, storage, and office space

• approximately 190 indoor seats

• approximately 70 outdoor seats

Newly Reduced Restaurant (**Approximate Numbers**)

• approximately 4,500 square feet  of “front-of house” publicly accessible dining space

• approximately 3,000 square feet of “back-of-house” kitchen, storage, and office space

• approximately 145 indoor seats

• approximately 40 outdoor seats

To further clarify, these are the new changes that were made:

• Reduced the restaurant area by a minimum of 25 percent

• Relocated the dining terrace from the south end to the north end of building (along US 41/Mound), while removing the western portion of the terrace

• Relocated the edible garden from rooftop to restaurant level

• Eliminated roof elevator access that was necessary for the rooftop edible garden resulting in a seven-foot reduction in the highest point of structure

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Jennifer O. Rominiecki

President & Chief Executive Officer

 

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Florida Local Government Retirement Benefits Survey – Special Districts To: Sarasota City Attorney Robert Fournier

I don’t know what to do with this, if anything.

Liz Alpert

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Florida Local Government Retirement Benefits Survey – Special Districts

To: Sarasota City Mayor Liz Alpert

Before I answer your specific question about the survey below, first I wanted to advise that I was able to speak at length this afternoon about the Gillespie Park Safe Neighborhood Improvement District with Debbie White, who is on the staff of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee.  Ms. White was the person whom we were advised to call with questions about the previous letter dated October 4, 2019 that was sent to you about the submission of an Annual Financial Report for the district.

Ms. White was very attentive and I was able to explain how the district was created 30 years ago and had been inactive since that time until recently re-activated by an unauthorized citizen resident of the district.  I was further able to explain how the City Commission had discussed the issue at its last regular meeting and how, pending a further report from staff, the City Commission was going to decide whether to keep the district active or to dissolve it at a point in the foreseeable future, but perhaps not until after the first of the year.

After considering what I had told her, she advised me that the best thing to do under the circumstances was to contact the Department of Financial Services to obtain a temporary User Name and Password to be able to file the Annual Financial Report on line.  She said to fill it out with all zeros everywhere as there had been no activity.  She said this would buy the City time to decide whether it would retain or dissolve the district.  I would think that whoever presently oversees the filing of the AFRs for the other special districts in the City would be able to do this in the near future.

I then asked her about the Survey you inquired about below.  She said to wait until after the AFR reporting no financial activity had been filed and then to just reply to the email with a brief explanation such as:  I am not responding to the survey as requested because this district has been inactive and there has been no financial activity regarding the district as reported on the AFR.

Robert M. Fournier

City Attorney

City of Sarasota

 

Florida Local Government Retirement Benefits Survey – Special Districts

To: Sarasota City Attorney Robert Fournier

The Finance Department files the City’s AFR with the Department of Financial Services through the Department’s LOGER system. Kelly is familiar with the process and will obtain a username and password for the Gillespie District. We should be able to get the AFR filed pretty quickly.

John Lege

Assistant City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Florida Local Government Retirement Benefits Survey – Special Districts

To: Assistant City Manager John Lege

Great! Thanks for letting me know. Debbie White told me that if we would just do this there would be no need for further written follow up until the City Commission makes the decision on the future of the district.

Robert M. Fournier

City Attorney

City of Sarasota

 

BITS Technical Committee

To: Longboat Key Commissioner Jack Daly

See the list of members of the BITS Technical Working Group from the FDOT.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

BITS Technical Committee

To: Longboat Key Public Works Director Isaac Brownman

The following were on the Technical Working Group.

Reina, Bessie, FDOT

Kautz, Nathan, FDOT

Cella, Kris, FDOT consultant

Frank Domingo, Stantec, FDOT consultant

Vishal Kakkad, Manatee County Traffic Operations

Ryan Suarez, Manatee County MCAT

Colleen McGue, City of Sarasota Sr. Transportation Planner

Mark Lyons, City of Sarasota Parking Manager

Lynn Burnett, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach City Engineer

Chief Tokajer, Holmes Beach Police Chief

Dave Hutchinson, MPO

Leigh Holt, MPO

Sarah Blanchard, Sarasota County SCAT

Amjid Hussain, Sarasota County Traffic Operations

Isaac Brownman, Town Longboat Key

Dean Jones, City of Anna Maria

Bessie Reina

Florida Department of Transportation

 

Proposed ordinance to amend General Employees’ retirement system

To: Longboat Key Town Clerk Trish Granger

I have been asked to go through you to have the attached letter distributed to the Town Commission prior to their November 4th Town Commission Regular meeting.  I had originally intended for it to be included with the agenda materials, but was informed this morning that I should go through you for distribution. Please let me know if you should have any questions. As always, thank you for your assistance.

Donna Chipman

Senior Office Manager Planning, Zoning & Building

Town of Longboat Key

 

Proposed ordinance to amend General Employees’ retirement system

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the November 4, 2019 Town Commission Regular Meeting due to a previously scheduled vacation. As a result, I have requested that this memorandum be included in your agenda materials so you may hear my comments related to this ordinance. The following information provides background related to my May 10, 2019, request to enter the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) and why I believe the retirement option is still available for employees.

For those that might not know, I am the longest tenured employee of the Town with 32 years and seven months of service. On May 1, 2019, I reached my normal retirement date. On May 10, 2019, I submitted a request to the Town’s HR Manager requesting to enter the DROP as outlined in Section 34.95 of the Town of Longboat Key Town Code. Our HR Manager informed me that the DROP was no longer available; however, I pointed out to her that the DROP still exists in the Town Code. This section of the code, which has not been revised or deleted, outlines the process, eligibility, and elections for an employee to enter the DROP. At her suggestion, I addressed the Consolidated Retirement System Board of Trustees at their meeting on May 17 regarding my request. The Board referred me to Section 34.72, Plan Freeze and participation in defined contribution plan, of the Town of Longboat Key Code of Ordinances, which notes that as of September 30, 2013 the defined benefit plan would cease to exist, and we would be entered into a 401(A) defined contribution plan. This section of the Town Code does not contain any language stating that the DROP would be sunsetted as of a date certain.

There was discussion that Section 34.72 (F), addresses the deadline for the DROP. I wish to point out that Section 34.72(F) begins with “Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection 34.96(B)(1),” which is titled, Military Service Prior to Employment. I did not serve in the military, so this would not apply. I also would like to point out that Section 34.72(F) was created for a very few select people, who were within five years of their normal retirement date (by age), but who did not meet requirements for entering the

Proposed Ordinance 2019-15, Amending General Employees Retirement System

DROP at that time. In fact, some of those selected employees were not vested in the plan but were given full vesting in order to enter the DROP. Unfortunately, at that time, I was six years from my normal retirement date and could not take advantage of the special provision. As of May 1, 2019, I meet all the criteria outlined in Section 34.95 to enter the DROP.

As a result of my request, and since there were several trustees that were conflicted with the information I provided, it was decided to continue discussion at their next meeting on August 21, 2019 and requested their attorney, Mr. Ron Cohen, review the materials and provide an opinion.

Mr. Cohen provided a letter to our Town Attorney, Maggie Mooney, and within that letter he refers to a court case, City of Hollywood v. Bien. I researched and found documents for that case on the Broward County Clerk of Court’s website and downloaded several for review. At the May 17 trustees meeting, it was the board’s belief that the DROP was part of the defined benefit that was part of the plan freeze outlined in Section 34.72. I do not believe it is a ‘benefit’, but is similar to the Town’s Early Retirement provision, and considered a form of retirement. In fact, in the court case referenced by Mr. Cohen, I found several references stating the DROP is not a retirement benefit, but an employment status. In that case, a document entitled, “Defendant City’s Memorandum of Law in Support of Proposed Findings of Fact and Final Order,” has the following:

Under the “Preliminary Statement and Summary of the Argument,” the City notes the plaintiff’s claims fail for numerous reasons, and on page 2 continue with (quote): “First, Plaintiffs must prove that they had a right, vested or not, to the DROP option entry date. The only possibility of showing this is to prove that the DROP was a benefit provided under the pension plan. It is not. Controlling precedent shows that DROP is a special employment status, not a pension benefit.”

On page 3, Point 1, is titled, DROP IS AN EMPLOYMENT STATUS AND NOT A PENSION BENEFIT, and the first sentence of the paragraph states, “The Fourth District Court of Appeal has twice indicated that DROP is an employment status. It is not a benefit that accrues upon or because of retirement.”

On page 4 of the document it references court case, Ikalina v. City of Pembroke Pines, and the last sentence of that paragraph states, “This decision recognizes

Proposed Ordinance 2019-15, Amending General Employees Retirement System

that DROP is not a benefit of retirement, but a status or accoutrement of employment.”

On page 5 of the document it references court case, Simcox v. City of Hollywood Police Officer’s Retirement System, the court stated “DROP is not retirement. DROP is an employment status.”

Another note is the City of Hollywood has clear language in its ordinance stating the date that their DROP would be sunsetted and no longer available – the Town does not have such language but continues to provide the process for entering into the DROP. There is no language in Section 34.95 stating that this section would not be applicable as of October 1, 2018, nor is there any ordinance that deletes the section in its entirety as of October 1, 2018.

I also reviewed Attorney Jim Linn’s letter, dated August 15, 2019. On page 2, paragraph two, Mr. Linn cites the language under Section 34.72(A) and the payout of benefits upon termination of employment believing the section was inconsistent with participation in the DROP. I would like to point out when one enters into the DROP you are technically ‘terminating employment’ with the Town for internal accounting purposes. You are electing to enter the DROP as a form of retirement and requesting the Town to direct your pension checks into an escrow account. Yes, the employee continues to work under the same employment structure but would need to leave at the end of five years. It is no different from the employee leaving and the Town hiring a new employee to take their place. In this case, the Town is retaining the employee for five years, before going through the hiring process.

In reference to the fourth ‘Whereas’ clause of proposed Ordinance 2019-15 where it references, “….and information provided to employees before the 2013 retirement plan changes….”, the Board discussed a Q&A document that was circulated during the anticipated plan freeze. Please note, that in addition to the contents of this document changing numerous times whereby employees could not rely on the answers, this document was never adopted, or incorporated, into the ordinance. If it is suggested that this information outlines the final ordinance, then I would like to hear the response for Question 23, Early Retirement Option, which is another form of retirement, similar to the DROP option. The Town’s response to that question was that there would be no early

Proposed Ordinance 2019-15, Amending General Employees Retirement System

retirement option; however, we have had an Early Retirement Option in the code since that time. So, again, this document has no validity.

During the August 21, 2019 trustees meeting, the Board voted on my request. There was one trustee that noted the inconsistency and incorrect information included in the existing ordinance; and there was one trustee that wished to move the decision to the Town Commission. In the end, the Board denied my request stating it was their belief that the ordinance was clear the DROP was no longer available.

I have worked under several Town Attorneys, who have impressed upon staff that the Town of Longboat Key Code of Ordinances is to be the document whose rules and regulations we abide by, and apply literal interpretation. I find it interesting that, even though the trustees stated the code was clear that the DROP was not available, the Town is subsequently revising the code with proposed Ordinance 2019-15. The proposed revisions in Ordinance 2019-15 are more than just ‘housekeeping’ and to “avoid future uncertainty about the eligibility….” (sixth Whereas clause). I believe it recognizes that the DROP provision is still available, and that it was not properly addressed in 2013. Otherwise, if it were clear, as noted by the trustees, there would not be a need to revise the code at this time. I also believe that the revisions proposed in Ordinance 2019-15 validate my claim that Section 34.95 is still available as a retirement option for eligible employees.

I submitted my request to HR to enter the DROP on May 10, 2019, based on the provisions of Section 34.95 of the Town of Longboat Key Code of Ordinances, which is the Town’s document that creates the laws and regulations for the Town and to which the Town requires all Town residents and staff to abide by. Again, this code section does not include any language deleting the section in its entirety or sunsetting it as of a date certain. As a result of the Town Commission considering Ordinance 2019-15, I believe it shows that the DROP provision is still in place, and I believe that my request should be honored, and I be allowed to enter into the DROP. Thank you for your time.

Donna M. Chipman

Senior Office Manager Planning, Zoning & Building

Town of Longboat Key

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