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Crescimbeni

Rules Committee votes to change pension board members

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

The makeup of the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund board of trustees is a step closer to being overhauled by City Council following a committee vote Monday.

After lengthy discussion, the Council Rules Committee voted 7-0 to approve an ordinance to alter the board by allowing Council to appoint three members of the five-member board instead of the current two.

The alteration would eliminate a trustee-appointed member. The other two, a police officer and firefighter elected by their peers, would remain.

The ordinance would replace Nat Glover, the current trustee-appointed member, for the remainder of his term ending Oct. 15, 2014; replace Barbara Jaffe for her term ending Dec. 1, 2014; and replace Peter Sleiman, who resigned in December, for the remainder of his term ending June 1, 2014.

As written, the legislation has blanks for each member’s replacement.

The fund is a single-employer contributing defined benefit pension plan that covers all full-time police and firefighter members with the City and is administered by the five-member board, according to the fund’s City website.

Council members Bill Gulliford and John Crescimbeni, a Rules Committee member, sponsored the ordinance.

Crescimbeni said he proposed the legislation because “as a member of the Finance Committee for the last three years, I’m sick and tired of the budget review for this entity coming forward with outlandish pay increases for their staff, exorbitant money managing fees that don’t match up with other funds” and news stories about lawsuits for defense of denying benefits.

Crescimbeni said he thinks there are qualified people in the general public who can fill the positions and he wants “budget hawks.”

He said he wants individuals “who go over there and look at every darn number that comes across the desk.”

The Legislature in 2011 amended Florida Statutes to authorize such pension boards to change municipal representation.

Steve Rohan of the General Counsel’s Office suggested having names in place for the positions, especially since they were held by current members instead of those at the end of terms.

Council President Stephen Joost sat in on the committee for the discussion and said he was searching for candidates, but he said many were turned off after initial flattery because of the high level of scrutiny that the job can entail.

He also said some Council members suggested candidates he didn’t think were qualified.

Joost said he has a couple of names for the current vacant position. “I will have a name for that position by the end of the week,” he told the committee.

Joost initially suggested having one of the positions nominated by the mayor, but it was determined the mayor has veto power on positions and also could suggest candidates to Council.

In other action from Monday’s Rules Committee meeting:

• The Jacksonville Ethics Commission is a step closer to having a slate of new members after the committee confirmed four appointments and one reappointment. Ywana Allen and Thomas Paul were appointed by the commission; Joe Jacquot was appointed by the Office of the Public Defender; and Laurence Pritchard was appointed by the sheriff. L.E. Hutton, appointed by the State Attorney’s Office, was reappointed. A vote on potential new member Cynthia Irvin, appointed by the chief judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit, was deferred.

• After some discussion and a re-vote, Twane Duckworth was confirmed as the City’s Risk Manager. Discussion centered on the requirement and waiver of five years of experience for the position, as stated in the Municipal Code. Council member Matt Schellenberg questioned that Duckworth’s experience did not meet the five-year mark and asked if there were other more qualified candidates available. Ronnie Belton, City chief financial officer, said the position was discussed with five candidates, most of whom wanted too much money. Duckworth will earn just less than $116,000.

Schellenberg also questioned if the salary range should be improved to lure more experienced candidates who could potentially save the City more money long-term. Belton said he was comfortable with Duckworth’s ability and Chris Hand, Mayor Alvin Brown’s chief of staff, also spoke in support of Duckworth’s experience and ability.

The committee voted 4-2 after an initial 3-3 tie, which would have stalled the appointment at the committee level. Crescimbeni changed his vote to the affirmative to move it to full Council for further discussion, he said.

• The committee also approved 6-0 an ordinance to create a St. Johns River Ferry Commission. The six committee members, with the other being a Council member, will all serve staggered terms, according to an amendment.

• An ordinance to name a green space in front of the new Duval County Courthouse the “Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Square” was deferred. Discussion centered on the name itself and whether it was appropriate for the facility. Crescimbeni said he was uncomfortable with the name in that location — not the name itself — and thought it would be better served in another area with more exposure. On Tuesday during the full Council meeting, Chief Judge Donald Moran also was apprehensive of the name in the original location, a point Crescimbeni also said was a factor.

dchapman@baileypub.com

356-2466

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