Local News

Deleon questions emails, pension plan communications

AVON PARK - City Manager Julian Deleon will address a few of his concerns at today's city council meeting, including the possibility that city business was communicated on a personal email account and, what he states, is non-compliance of a public records request by the city related to the police pension plan. On the city council agenda, Deleon notes that the city has a contract with the Highlands County Sheriff's Office for 16 deputies and the city also funds three full-time and one part-time Avon Park police officers. Deleon stated that Lakeland attorney Robert Grizzard, who has initiated several lawsuits against the city, has "extensively questioned" the city's police officers during depositions over their law enforcement powers. Similar questions have also been previously raised by Councilman Garrett Anderson, Deleon stated.
"A recent public records request for Councilman Anderson's personal Gmail account, where public business may have been discussed, revealed that the Police Pension Plan Administrator, Carol Knapp, has opted to use what appears to be a 'blind copy' to Councilman Anderson on police and fire pension matters to his personal Gmail account," Deleon stated. A blind copy allows someone to send email copies while concealing one recipient's true identity to other stakeholders, who are subject or receive, in this case, Knapp's emails, he explained. All city council member have a city-assigned email account, which properly archives all public records and complies with records retention laws, Deleon stated. "This business practice of using personal unregulated email accounts makes getting public records very difficult and may be perceived as a means of concealing public business." Deleon explained that the police pension board attorney has made public statements at various meetings that the Avon Park Police retirement system should be considered a "closed" pension system. If the pension plan were to be closed or terminated, it would amount to a "massive multi-million dollar" financial liability to the city, Deleon stated. After consulting with legal counsel, Deleon states he has made a records request from the police retirement plan administrator, the plan attorney and the police chairperson. "Plan Administrator Knapp and Police Pension Chairperson Greg Warner have failed to comply with State Law as outlined under FS 119 for public records," Deleon stated. He also wanted to make the city council aware of these matters. "Based on the liability, the staff recommendation is that we remain on task and demand that public records be produced to clearly understand and mitigate all possible pension liability," Deleon stated. The city council will hold a regular meeting at 6 p.m. today. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826