Drummond's parting gift to staff member: $60,000 raise


Published: Sunday, August 4, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 5:28 p.m.

The Alachua County Commission is considering giving its employees their first real raise in six years for the upcoming fiscal year — but one recently retired staff member has already received an impressive pay increase: $60,000.

Elmira Warren, the county's former Community Support Services director who retired at the end of July, was given a raise on June 3 that boosted her annual salary from $105,991 to $166,456, according to public records the county provided to The Sun.

Former acting County Manager Richard Drummond, who also retired in July, told The Sun he gave Warren the raise to make up for her not receiving the Senior Management Service Class designation for the Florida Retirement System (FRS), which would have allowed her to receive a higher employer-provided retirement contribution.

Since Warren received the $60,000 raise at the beginning of June and retired at the end of July, she didn't receive the full amount. Drummond said he gave her that huge raise because it provided around $10,000 in additional pay over her last two months of work. That amount was roughly what she would have received in retirement benefits had she been in the senior management class.

Warren could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Drummond told The Sun he also gave Environmental Protection Director Chris Bird a 2 percent raise recently. Bird was another employee whose name came up at a recent commission meeting as someone probably deserving of the senior management classification who doesn't have that designation.

Bird's raise in June increased his annual salary from $119,500 to $121,891, records show.

As county manager, Drummond could provide raises without the County Commission's approval. County Commissioners Susan Baird and Lee Pinkoson told The Sun they were unaware Warren had received a raise. The other commissioners could not be reached for comment.

Even though county employees' salaries are a matter of public record, Baird said that doesn't mean commissioners are aware of every raise or know to look for them. She said learning of Warren's raise made her more skeptical and cynical in recognizing that county staff can arrange such raises.

"It's almost like they have their own inter-team family," she said.

Baird said she considers the raise an internal favor for Warren. "It has to be, and I just think that, that is unacceptable," she said. "I mean, there's just no other word."

Raises shouldn't be arbitrary or based on what one person has decided is fair, Baird said. It should be based on factors such as whether an employee has been given additional responsibilities.

She also said she was annoyed the commission wasn't advised about such a big raise.

The county currently is reviewing its policies for placing employees in the senior management FRS class since the issue came up earlier this summer during discussions over whether to give Communications Coordinator Mark Sexton that designation.

Warren had been shortchanged and should have been put in the senior management class years ago, Drummond said. He said he saw the raise as something he could do to make up for that "injustice."

"It was my reaction to what I believe was a real shortcoming," he said. "It was my way of dealing with an issue that should have been resolved many years ago."

Putting Warren in the senior management class this year wouldn't have helped her because she was in the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP). Salary increases received while an employee is in DROP don't impact the retirement benefit he or she receives because that is finalized when they first enter the program, according to an email to The Sun from Ben Wolf, the director of communications for the Florida Department of Management Services.

When the County Commission discussed the senior management issue at a meeting in early June, Warren told the board she felt both she and Bird should have been placed in that class.

"I'm glad to hear that you're considering my successor to be included in senior management, but I still feel that there needs to be some retroactive compensation for the fact that I have been eliminated from this category," Warren said at the meeting.

"Since the time I have been here, I have served you well, and I have never broken any personnel rules or regulations, and I can tell you that I've been proud to be a county employee. But this saddens me and makes me feel that my qualifications are not valued at the same level as others that have been hired since I have been."

County Manager Betty Baker, who succeeded Drummond, said he made the call to give Warren the raise after reviewing the senior management class issue and determining she should have received it a while ago.

"I think it was an attempt to try to make her whole for the years she was not in senior management for FRS," Baker said. "I know the intent was to try to balance or restore what had happened."

The pay range for community support services director will not change because of Warren's raise, Baker said.

Human Resources Manager Kim Baldry said the salary range for that position runs from a minimum of $77,849 to a maximum of $132,344.

Baker said the staff is reviewing the senior management class issue and will bring its recommendation before the County Commission, which doesn't have a clear policy for handling that designation.

Alachua County employees haven't received a cost-of-living increase in six years, although Baldry said most did get a 3 percent pay increase earlier this year to offset their mandatory pension contributions for the FRS.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gainesville.com.

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