Local News

AP pension controversy churns on

AVON PARK - City Manager Julian Deleon voiced his concerns about the police pension plan at Wednesday's special city council meeting and called for the removal Greg Warner as chairman of the police pension board. Deleon said that a closure or termination of a pension plan would be detrimental to the city. A plan "closure" would not allow new employees into the pension plan and has financial consequences for the city, he said. A "termination" of the police pension plan would cause "massive financial liability" for the city, possibly in the millions of dollars. Deleon noted that he reviewed thousands of emails from his public records request of the police pension board.
"I found clear communications between Lakeland attorney Bob Grizzard, previous police chief Mike Rowan and [pension board] Chairman Greg Warner being copied on the majority of the communications that were linked to plan closure or termination," he said. "Clearly the plan administrator [Carol Knapp] is involved in it." He did not find that any of the other pension board members where involved in it, Deleon said. Deleon said that in his opinion, Warner, who was appointed to the pension board by the council, is "plugged in" to all the activities about plan closure and termination. "My recommendation is that you remove Greg Warner as the council-appointed trustee," Deleon said. "He was given a week and a half to come here before this council and he did not." Knapp and the plan attorney, Scott Christiansen, had conflicts with the council meeting time and were unable to attend. Mayor Sharon Schuler said she doesn't want a plan termination, which could cost the city an estimated $16 million to 20 million. "That would bankrupt our city," she said. "If that's the goal, to bankrupt the city of Avon Park so that we have no city, then this is the way to do it." Schuler and Councilman Parke Sutherland said they would like to hear from the pension board before making any decisions. Sutherland said, "I would appreciate an opportunity to hear from them to understand what their thought processes were given some of the content of the emails, but we can't compel their attendance." City Attorney Gerald Buhr said council can remove Warner from the pension board at any time. Council directed Buhr to contact Christiansen to set up a time for him or a pension representative to meet with the council within the next two weeks either at a regularly scheduled city council meeting or a special meeting. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826