Pension plan switch leaves some in limbo

Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 at 12:14 a.m.
HIGH SPRINGS - The process of switching from one retirement plan to another has left eight police officers and one firefighter in limbo as officials work to complete paperwork necessary for the change.
This comes almost three years after the decision to transfer from one plan to another was made. The Police Department negotiated through its union in 2000 to leave a plan offered by the Florida League of Cities for one offered through the state, City Attorney James L. Pendland Jr. said.
City commissioners said they assumed police officers were already being covered under the state plan. Mayor Jim Gabriel said he became aware that that wasn't the case after a grievance was made to the city by a representative of the Police Benevolent Association.
"You assume as a city commissioner that that kind of business is being taken care of when the commission enters into a contract on behalf of the city," he said. "The staff's job is to carry those directives out."
Pendland said the delay came in part because officials had difficulties determining what needed to be done for both the League of Cities and the state in order to leave one plan and join the other.
"Every time we ask for instructions from these two different agencies we either do not get instructions or they were conflicting," Pendland said, adding that the process was further complicated because some paperwork had to be redone after the city hired its only full-time firefighter last year.
The uncertainty for the police officers and the firefighter comes because neither plan would accept new members while the switch was taking place, Pendland said. Those affected are effectively being covered by neither plan. Among them is Police Chief and Interim City Manager Ray Kaminskas.
"I am among the in-limbo people," said Kaminskas, who was started on the job in August. "I have a contract and my contract says I'm under Florida state retirement, but somebody told me I wasn't and I checked and verified that I wasn't, so we started the ball rolling to make sure I get under it and so do all of the officers."
At a meeting last week, the City Commission passed a resolution notifying the state of its intention for city employees, police officers and the firefighter to join the state plan. General city employees had expressed interest to the commission last year about rejoining the state plan, which the city left for the League of Cities plan for economic reasons in 1996, Pendland said.
Pendland said the two systems have become "very similar" in cost since then, and that city employees said they were interested in a change because they felt the state plan was more convenient.
City commissioners also directed staff to hire an actuary who would explain to city employees what their options are under each plan, Gabriel said.
Paul Shamoun, retirement services manager for the League of Cities, said switching providers is commonly a lengthy process.
"When you're dealing with someone's retirement money, you want to make sure everything is completely accurate," he said.
Rachel Kipp can be reached at (352) 374-5086 or

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