The hot topic at the Escambia Commission meeting on Thursday, June 3, was the pensions for the county’s senior management and the commissioners. According to the agenda item, the commissioners’ statements during the meeting and Inweekly’s conversation with several county employees, many of them weren’t told or given the full documentation of the county’s 401a annuity program, costing them tens of thousands of dollars in their retirement accounts.
The debate over whether the county should offer a backpay settlement is awaiting legal analysis by County Attorney Alison Rogers and Clerk of Courts Pam Childers.
And while much of the discussion has centered around the commissioners, the debate uncovered that some senior management staff haven’t been told by County Administrator Janice Gilley about the disparity in the two retirement options and that they are eligible to switch.
“I’m disappointed that since the issue has come up towards the end of 2019, and we have had nine or 10 of Administrator Gilley’s hires get into the program,” said Commissioner Steven Barry. “I’m disappointed that those existing employees that were eligible weren’t brought in and notified, ‘Hey, look, you were actually eligible five years ago, but you’re still eligible now. These are the terms of the program’… I feel like that’s been a responsibility that the county has had that, as a county, we have clearly failed to do, even if it’s just the non-attention to it.”
Commissioner Lumon May added, “Quite frankly, in my opinion, this action, it’s not about county commissioners. It’s about those employees who have served in the dark without knowledge of this program and that they should have the opportunity to exercise any retirement benefits, not for themselves, but the sacrifice that they made for their children and those they may leave upon their death and their retirement.”
I checked today with a senior management level employee who verified the HR department hasn’t still talked with them, even after the June 3 meeting.
There appears to be two camps among senior leadership at the county – those hired by Gilley and those hired before July 2019.
At the June 3, Commissioner Doug Underhill said he wanted to do away to the 401a annuity plan because it treats senior management staff differently than the rest of the county employees.
“How do we have such a lucrative deal only available to the most senior people and certainly only and uniquely available to elected officials as we vest very, very quickly?” Underhill asked. “I think the only appropriate action of this board tonight would be to eliminate this perk.”
What about discrimination among the senior management staff?