I received the below letter from a concerned citizen and retired Deerfield Beach Firefighter, Bill Connor.
Now that the Deerfield Beach Fire/Rescue merger with BSO is complete, I feel that there may have been some issues that were overlooked. For the record, I have nothing but good things to say about BSO Fire/Rescue and have heard only praise for Chief DeJesus. After speaking with some of the men and woman involved in the merger it appears everyone is happy. There are more opportunities for promotions and substantial pay raises due to educational incentives, and unlimited overtime.
The first issue was why there was such a rush to make this merger happen. Had this merger gone to a referendum; or at least had the public been allowed to speak on the merger, some items may have been brought up that would make the Commission wonder if this was really a good deal or at least change some pension items that could eventually bankrupt the City of Deerfield Beach. The big savings came from the fact that the City wouldn't have to purchase a C.A.D. ( Computer-assisted dispatch system). Every year for the last twenty or so years, the Fire Department requested this and was denied. Why is it now touted as saving millions for the City? Ex Fire Chief Lother and previous City Manager Deetjen for years had considered send the Dispatch portion of the Fire Department to save the City money. The savings the Commissioners and City Manager are touting as the reason it was a win for the City to send away the whole Fire Department, could have been fully realized without sending the Fire Department along with it. Makes you wonder what kind of logic is being used.
If you attended the Aug. 16, 2011 Commission meeting, there was some interesting dialog regarding the BSO merger. Commissioner Preston stated he would like the public to be heard on this issue. Commissioner Ganz then stated he voted that this should go to a referendum. Both were overruled and the vote had to happen immediately. Every Commissioner stated that they had some concerns. However, City Manager Burgess Hanson, met with them individually and basically assured them that the City of Deerfield Beach couldn't afford the Firefighters pensions anymore and this merger was the only option. It is my belief that the Commissioners didn't go over the BSO merger contract with a fine tooth comb but relied on the recommendation of the City Manager to vote yes on this contract. That would be understandable due to the complexity and size of the contract but then again, that should have also been a reason to slow it down and get public input.
Now this is the part that makes everyone who's read the contract, which I have, scratch their heads. Ever member of the City of Deerfield Beach Fire/Rescue Department was given an option of going into the Florida Retirement System (FRS) pension, or remaining in the City of Deerfield Beach Fire/Rescue pension. Somewhat confusing why this was ever an option if the main reason for the merger was " The City can't afford the pensions anymore". The major difference is that in the FRS pension plan; overtime, unused Vacation Time, and Compensatory Time, is NOT calculated into your pension. In the City of Deerfield Beach pension plan, overtime, unused Vacation Time, and Compensatory Time IS calculated into your pension, commonly known as Pension Spiking. It should not be surprise thay EVERY member who's still calculating their pension, chose to remain in the Deerfield Beach Pension Plan. With salary increases up to 30% higher and ALL this going into their Deerfield Pension, where is the savings Burgess Hanson sold the Commission on? The $100,000 a year pension, with these pay increases, will be the norm and not the exception. This oversight by City Manager, Burgess Hanson is going to eventually cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.
The quote was that" The City of Deerfield Beach wanted out of the pension business". With Mr. Hanson's recommendation to the Commission to approve the contract, the City will be out of the pension business, it just may take between 60-70 years ( when the last Deerfield Beach Firefighter retires from BSO) and millions of taxpayers’ dollars are spent to pay them until they pass on.
There are two ways to correct this unforgivable error and not make the Deerfield Beach taxpayers forever pay for Mr. Hanson's incompetence:
1) Have all the Deerfield Beach Fire/Rescue-BSO employees go into the FRS retirement plan where Overtime, Vacation Time, and Compensatory Time is not calculated into the pensions.
2) If the Deerfield Beach Fire/Rescue-BSO employees do chose to remain in the City's pension plan, eliminate Overtime, Vacation Time, and Compensatory Time in the pension calculations.
Deerfield Beach Mayor, Peggy Noland.
Wife of Deerfield Beach Firefighter/BSO, Howard Noland
Mother of Deerfield Beach Firefighter/BSO, Thomas Noland
As to why the merger had to happen so fast and with no public voice is another issue entirely. A speculation is that a current D.R.O.P. participant may have helped expedite the merger. In the D.R.O.P. ,you are allowed 60 months of continued employment, and then you must retire. With the BSO merger, the 60 month rule is throw out and you can 'Double Dip" forever. Wonder who was in the D.R.O.P. and nearing forced retirement? The answer may have something to do with how the merger took place and the urgency in which it took place.
Please Note: It has been reported that Howard Noland, Husband of Mayor Peggy Noland and Deerfield Beach Firefighter, entered the D.R.O.P. on 8-09-07, which if the 60 month time limit from above is true would mean that he would have had to retire on 8-09-12. This has yet to be confirmed, but if true makes you wonder...
City of Deerfield Beach Mayor and avid supporter/lobbyist of the BSO merger, Peggy Noland, can you confirm if your husband is now eligible for two retirements, one under the City of Deerfield Beach plan and now one under the Florida plan with BSO.
I would suggest you read this post about how Howard Noland got a slap on the wrist when it was found that he was defrauding the City of Deerfield Beach about his credentials.