Largo Commission Okays Key Change in 'Double Dip' Plan
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Largo will have a new police chief in 2014.
And, if the City Commission had not approved the amendment Tuesday night to change a certain retirement plan, Chief John Carroll would have had to step down in 2012.
Carroll succeeded Lester Aradi in June and already is collecting pension money, not going directly to him right now, but accumulating in a fund that he will get when he does retire.
It's all part of the apparent Largo philosophy that "nothing's too good for our employees" - especially the higher-ranking ones as can be seen in the exorbitant compensation packages recently revealed.
As part of the giveaway of taxpayer money in Largo, some employees can double dip while working and when retirement comes walk away with more than a modest nest egg.
This is how it works -
The Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) is available to members of the Police Department and Fire & Rescue who, once they have 23 years of service, can opt to continue working for up to five years and have their retirement income deposited in an escrow investment account which they cannot access until their employment terminates.
In effect, the employees in this category are collecting two paychecks.
The purpose of the amendment agreed to at Tuesday's commission meeting in the governing ordinance was to extend the working period once in the DROP from five years to seven years. It was done, insiders say, for the express purpose of keeping Carroll in his post for two years more than otherwise.
Carroll has been in the program for three years and was facing mandatory retirement in 2012, barely enough time to get his feet wet in the job he inherited from Aradi.
DROP is a double dipping program.
This is why - Upon eligibility (23 years of service) retirement pay is pegged at 75 percent of the pay at that time. This amount goes into the special account for what will now be seven years.
For example, an officer with 23 years or more and with a salary of $100,000 gets a retirement stipend of $75,000 a year. That person is on the job working and earning a salary (and benefits) and at the same time is being paid retirement money.
In such an example, after seven years, the person would collect $525,000 plus whatever interest the account earned - at a modest 3 percent compounded over those seven years the grand total in departing the city would amount to something like $675,000.
So person fitting the example cited here, could be retired at an age in his or her mid 50s, collect the retirement benefit of $75,000 for life with the nest egg itself developing a sizeable income and the prospects of another job could be waiting.
In effect, Largo is running a "get rich program" for certain categories of employees.
A man or woman joining the police or fire department at 20 can be fully vested at 43, go into the DROP program and double dip, be forced to retire at 50, get a big check for the accumulated pension money paid but not accessed, collect the 75 percent pension in due course, go to work for another company for 20 years, collect a pension there at retirement and then collect Social Security.
Once again, it brings to mind the words of Chris DeMaio of blessed memory, a former member of the Belleair Beach City Council, who once said, "I think we run this city for the benefit of the employees."
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