BRADENTON -- At the end of Tuesday's Manatee County Commission workshop, Chairman Larry Bustle said he had one more item to announce. Bustle told fellow commissioners that he had been working on the deal to retain Manatee County Administrator administrator Ed Hunzeker beyond his planned retirement in August of 2014. Bustle told the board that he'd "figured out how to do it," but couldn't go into further details at that time. The item could come up as quickly as Tuesday's BOCC meeting.
Bustle, who had the unanimous approval of the board to begin negotiations, piqued the interest of fellow members. Commissioner Carol Whitmore, a close ally of Hunzeker's replied, "Now you have me thinking and I can't wait to see." Bustle ended the meeting with, "I would like to take action at our next session, that would be on the 29th." He said he was looking forward to "making it happen," and adjourned the meeting.
Retaining Hunzeker could be expensive for Manatee County taxpayers. Hunzeker has been in the state's DROP program for the last three years. DROP, which stands for Deferred Retirement Option Program, allows enrolled workers eligible for retirement to continue working, while up to five years of benefits are paid into a trust, where they earn interest at 6.5 percent APR.
Also, as a long-time high ranking bureaucrat with FRS participants, Hunzeker has amassed a considerable retirement benefit. Were he to leave in 2014 as originally planned, he would be eligible for a lump sum benefit of over $300,000 and monthly benefits over $6,000.
There is a loophole that allows FRS participants to "double dip" by retiring for at least 6 months before seeking their old position (or one with another FRS participant). But if workers in DROP do not terminate FRS participating employment at the 5-year point, they void their retirement. Manatee County would also have to repay benefits from DROP.
Chairman Bustle has already publicly acknowledged that it could cost money to retain Hunzeker, who already earns close to $185,000 (including deferred compensation and vehicle allowance). Bustle has claimed Hunzeker is under-compensated compared to comparable positions in the area.
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