Local News

AP council removes Warner from pension board

AVON PARK - Following City Manager Julian Deleon's recommendation, the city council has removed Greg Warner from the police pension board and the city will take legal action regarding its records request of the board. City Manager Julian Deleon said it has been more than seven weeks and Police Pension Plan Administrator Carol Knapp has provided only one month's worth of records. "We have come across some controversial communication from the City of Bartow where I also did a records request," he said. It was evident that Knapp and Pension Plan Chairperson Greg Warner were exploring the possibility of closing or possibly terminating the police pension system. After a review of more than 7,000 pages of documents, none of the documents show that the other four police pension board trustees had any knowledge of the communications among Warner, former police chief Mike Rowan and Lakeland attorney Robert Grizzard, who is part of four separate lawsuits against the city.
Deleon called for the city council to remove Warner from the pension board and authorize litigation due to inadequate response by Knapp and Warner to the public records request. "Also, I want to make you aware that Councilman [Garrett] Anderson had been getting blind copies to his G-mail accounts over city matters," he said. Deleon added that Councilman Parke Sutherland, the council liaison to the pension board, is being kept in the dark. The trustees are being kept in the dark and all these "adverse activities" against the city's taxpayers are happening in the background. Anderson said every communication he received was sent to other people and they were turned in (in the records request). "There were no laws broken," he said. "There was nothing wrong with what I did in an official capacity." Also, staff and council are planning on having a meeting on this issue with the attorneys and Warner so why is this being brought up now when they are not here to defend themselves? Anderson asked. Only one side of the story has been heard and a meeting will be coming up. Deleon said he has received a copy of an email from Warner that states he does not plan on attending any joint meeting of the council and the police pension board and he is the primary person who would have to answer questions on the issue. Concerning the city's records request, Sutherland said there has been no meaningful response from Knapp. City Attorney Gerald Buhr said a reasonable amount of time has passed. City Labor Attorney Brian Koji said if the police pension plan were to be terminated it would likely cost the city at least $10 million. Mayor Sharon Schuler said, "That would destroy the city." Sutherland made a motion to send a letter to the pension plan officials requesting a response to the public records request by Oct. 11 and advising that failure to comply would prompt a lawsuit from the city. Council approved the motion by a 4-1 vote with Anderson voting "no." Concerning Warner, Deleon said he is the only trustee on the police pension board who is "in the know relative to all these adverse activities against the city. The staff recommendation is for you to remove him from the board." Sutherland said there is evidence in the emails, known to only one pension board member, that are not in the best interest of the citizens of the city. Councilman Terry Heston said that was his biggest concern, also. Deputy Mayor Brenda Giles said it doesn't appear that Warner's conduct has been in the best interest of the city. Anderson said, "We desperately need to hear from him ... ." Giles said, "but, he won't come." Heston made a motion to remove Warner from the police pension board. Giles seconded the motion. The motion carried by a 3-1 vote with Anderson voting "no" and Schuler abstaining because Warner is opposing her in her bid for reelection as mayor. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826