Pension debate uncovers another Gilley goof

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?

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8 thoughts on “Pension debate uncovers another Gilley goof

  1. Bryan, I appreciate your response more than you could know. Thank you. And I wasn’t prying into the circumstances of your leaving, but just being honest that I don’t know what happened. People think because I have a solid working relationship with Commissioner Bergosh that he shares things he shouldn’t with me, and that is not true. So I don’t receive sensitive information like that from any corner. Neither do we agree on everything. Thankfully, we don’t–because it’s a *good* thing when people with different perspectives share, even argue, those different opinions. And I have never politicked against Fire. I simply saw that the public campaign that was being run was the D2 office using the Fire union to blow up the Board, and that the campaign was never going to work, and would set negotiations back. Nick Gradia and I had a public argument about it in the lobby downtown. I don’t do subterfuge, despite what gets said about me.

    As far as ECW goes, I stood at that podium when Doug made fun of Jacqueline for “holding calls holding calls” and I said “She hates it when I do this, but when she’s right she’s right.” I then said that they can fix the problem of holding buses at the hospital and talk stats all they want, but trucks don’t matter when you don’t have medics to fill them. And that yes, starting pay–and the possibility of compression if that got fixed–is indeed an issue (for Fire way more than EMS, but EMS also). But that the real problem, that everybody knows, is that people don’t want to work under Dr. Edler as medical director. And the problem with ECW is that the true information they are posting is selective, and mixed in with absolute disinformation that some of them *know* isn’t true.

    And please consider this. If that site hadn’t politicked so hard against me, and run absurd disinformation on Edler’s suit against me–at one point, going so far as to represent me as the plaintiff–think what I might have gotten exposed during the course of that trial. Why do you think I stayed in it? Why do you think there wasn’t a mediation? And just at the point where we were issuing subpoenas and getting ready to depose witnesses, she dropped it. You will *never* see an honest representation of what actually happened in that suit over there. I really encourage you to check out the docket and read the transcripts of the hearings that I paid for (and Edler has now been ordered to repay me for) so that people could see what was really going on.

    In addition, some months back, after I knew that Jacqueline had been provided a more accurate picture of Edler’s “management” and some of the things she was participating in, I sent Jacqueline multiple nice emails saying that I thought we should bury the hatchet for the good of the community, and work together on EMS. And I sent her a bunch of information. She never answered a single one of those emails, and continued to attack me and traffic in disinformation on me with every email I sent. I am serious as a heart attack when I say that if some of the folks who contribute there want to know why that situation wasn’t rectified far earlier, they should take a good long look in the mirror.

    So many lives destroyed, for no reason, as I said on Commissioner Bergosh’s blog a bit ago, than two weak and self-interested administrators watching their own backs and working their high fives. And yes, I’m aware of some of the things going on in the background leading up to the EMS arrests. Which is why I keep trying to bring public attention to how some–maybe all, I have never spoken with some of them–of those people were railroaded by the County. As I understand it, FDLE never even went through ALL the files. And were directed which files to go get. And then of course there was an SAO election upcoming, right?

    Again, I am really heartened by your response. I would be happy to meet. Hit me up via PM any time.

  2. Rick, keep doing what you’re doing bro! I for one appreciate it…I may have been wrong about the email. I posted in one of these blogs and I can’t find it for the of me…I may have deleted before posting. I dunno… I will email you tomorrow though.

  3. Brian, please resend to rick@inweekly.net. I can’t find the original. People have trashed me and this blog for over two decades. You can see how much that bothers me. Lol. Still here, still read, still making a difference. Still imperfect.

  4. Melissa…first of all thank you noticing that I am attempting to advocate for PS. I learned quite a bit from some of the individuals that spoke at the podium last week. It made an impression on me. I don’t, as you state it, cherry pick my advocacy. I advocate on what I know and understand. As I sat and listened to other county staff share the same burden with the dais, it moved me. The reason for my departure from Fire is nobody’s business but mine. I may decide to discuss it with you someday but not in the near future. I’ll just say this, suspicious circumstances arose and I was also “railroaded” so to speak. The reasons are shaky at best.
    My desire is to see the things that have been hidden by HR, Gilley and EMS Admin exposed to vindicate those who were wronged. There are those still employed for things that some have been dismissed for. There are things I am aware of the Gilley, Barry and HR were aware of along with Maygarden, if Gilley shared that info, that will not be favorable for the County. I can only say that there is an investigation but it’s to find of there is any “dirt” on the major players. I feel Gilley has a team or squad or whatever you want to title it that does the dirty work for her. Of course, she can’t do all of it because she has other important things to do. Right? I do appreciate your advocacy. I ask one favor in closing. Please understand those on ECW are being provided with good intel. I wouldn’t be there if they weren’t. Don’t discredit them. I feel like we agree on a lot more than you think. I make no qualms when I tell them, I no longer work for you, you work for me now. I will begin every diatribe I have with them with that statement. We may need to get together and hash some things out and get on the same page and see what notes we have and what we can discern.

    Rick, I emailed you weeks ago about this. Still haven’t heard from you. People trash your blog all the time. I don’t. I think you have decent some insight into some things. It would be nice to have a chat.

  5. Bryan Caro, for two years straight I have advocated against unfair labor practices at the County. While I am happy to see–truly–that another person has joined the struggle to expose this administration and HR department for their gross inequities, rampant violations of due process, and federal workplace illegalities, it saddens me, deeply, to see you continue to cherry pick your advocacy.

    I truly have no idea of the circumstances concerning your departure from Fire, but everybody assumes your constant Facebooking against the commission had something to do with it. I agree with you to a certain degree about County staff not being able to vocalize frustrations because of County policy, but I will also tell you that there is a *lot* of resentment towards Fire from other County staff that administration allowed Fire to run on so long with violating that policy. Another inequity.

    Hardly a day goes by that I do not in some way, big or small, try to arrest the progress of the horrendous toxic workplace at the County, and in Public Safety in particular, and try to give voice to the people who have been damaged under it. At the beginning of the EMS saga, I spoke with many individual fire fighters and told them that if they condoned–and in some cases participated in–the horrendous harassment and due process violations of some of the EMS staff, they had better hope that karma didn’t come home to roost on Fire. I begged–literally begged–union leadership to think about the fact that, if this were allowed to happen in EMS, there is no reason it might not be flipped back on Fire at some point.

    Nobody seemed to care. While I was given lip service about it in the background, over two years of advocating for people who–in some cases–were set up on criminal charges that EVERYBODY in Public Safety knows some of them are innocent of, there wasn’t a peep out of anybody in Fire to voice support for those individuals. And some of them are staring down 30-year prison sentences, Bryan, and you know better than anybody how some of that got fabricated. And yet you say nothing.

    So while there is part of me that sees your comments and thinks “thank God somebody from the inside is speaking out about HR/Administration,” it also continues to flabbergast me the cowardice and self-interest that many in Public Safety continue to exhibit, when their fellows have been endlessly tortured–financially, spiritually, physically–by one of the worst cases of injustice I have ever laid eyes on.

    We agree on a lot; raising starting pay for Fire is just one issue we see eye-to-eye on. But if you’re going to style yourself as a advocate for equity and justice, and a person giving voice to those who can’t speak, then you need to go all the way with it and come clean about what you know about how those EMS people were railroaded on some of those charges.

    Until then, it has the taint of blatant self-interest. Right now, at this moment, ECW is sitting judge and jury over those people, mocking their circumstances and talking every kind of smack under the sun about their perceived guilt. I haven’t seen you say one thing in their defense; nor has Lindsay Ritter. She also knows how the set-up occurred.

    So I guess Fire pay is all that really matters. Your former colleagues having to spend down their life savings on trumped up charges and battle two different powerful agencies that received cherry picked information from the County and FDLE interviews where people lied under oath? Guess that one is just too hot to touch. And you wouldn’t benefit from assisting them, anyway, it appears. I really hope you’ll reflect on that.

  6. the HR dept also needs to be investigated for putting harassment complaints in a separate file and not in the employee’s HR file… I emailed you several weeks ago abou this and never heard from you

  7. David,

    Thank you for writing. The reasonable next step is an independent investigation of the county’s HR department and how it handled informing employees about the retirement options. What documents have all the employees been provided? Did employees receive different info?

    A good employment attorney could do it in matter of weeks.

    You assert Barry and everyone received the same information, but I have several employees, current and past, that tell me a different story. An independent investigation would tell us what happened pre-2019 and post-2019. I don’t know how anyone could object to finding out the truth.

    In fact, I’m baffled why the county administrator didn’t launch an investigation in 2019.

    What is the “Great Financial Crisis” that you’re referring to? The 2007-2009 recession? Four years before Barry took office? By December 31, 2012, the Dow Jones was almost at pre-recession levels. In 2013, it would continued to climb. I’m not sure that proves your claim that “the defined-benefit choice was a completely reasonable one.”

    Your biggest overreach is asserting that asking for an ethics opinion without board approval is somehow an ethics violation. Elected officials routinely ask for such opinions. For the county attorney to help isn’t unusual either. It’s expected since she advises the commissioners individually and together. If the ethics commission felt it was unethical, it would not have been placed on the ethic commission’s agenda.

    Join me and asking for an independent investigation. Who is afraid of facts?

    -Rick

  8. The idea that Janice Gilley should be held responsible for Steven Barry’s obstinate foolishness is laughable. In 2013, when Steve Barry became a Commissioner, he was provided with documents allowing him to choose between retirement options, one of which was the 401a plan. He was provided with the same level of information about both choices. If he didn’t think he had enough information to make a choice, he could have asked for more, which is no doubt what the newer hires have done.

    It’s also worth noting that the choice between a defined-benefit pension and a 401a looked very different in 2013 than it does today. In fact, in the wake of the Great Financial Crisis, the defined-benefit choice was a completely reasonable one. It is highly dubious for Mr. Barry to claim today that his choice was ill-informed, rather than it simply looking less attractive in hindsight.

    Simply asserting that he was not informed of an option that is listed on a form two inches above his signature is not a basis for handing him a 6-figure payout.

    In any event, if Mr. Barry has a claim that information was withheld from him but provided to other employees, then he should hire a lawyer and file a suit. Directing the County Attorney to petition the State Ethics Board without the approval or knowledge of the BOCC’s members is probably an ethics violation by itself.

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