City Commissioner Terry Turner is accused of putting a half-million-dollar pension payment at risk with his language in the Strong City Manager Charter Amendment.
The Sarasota News Leader has found that language jeopardizing the pension money first was proposed by City Auditor and Clerk Pam Nadalini in a Sept. 14, 2010 memo to the Charter Review Committee.
The group was doing a once-a-decade overhaul of the city’s charter at the time. It had asked each of the charter officials – the city manager, city attorney and city auditor and clerk – to propose “housekeeping amendments” to correct errors and streamline government activities as part of that process.
More than 18 months before Turner and his political action committee began circulating their petition, Nadalini proposed sweeping language giving her the power to administer all the city’s pension plans, not just the general employees’ plan.
It turns out the language in either proposal – Nadalini’s “housekeeping amendment” or Turner’s “strong city manager” – jeopardizes the $500,000 in annual firefighters’ pension money from the state.
While Turner and his confederates have taken criticism for not writing their proposal carefully, Nadalini’s “housekeeping measure” passed the scrutiny of the charter committee, the city attorney and the City Commission over a 20-month period.
City Attorney Robert Fourner reported to the City Commission on Aug. 1 that the Turner amendment language said the city manager would serve as the administrator of the general employee pension plans and others. “I can’t take that language out, but it could mean the loss of state funds,” he said.
State law says, “In each municipality and in each special fire control district there is hereby created a board of trustees of the firefighters’ pension trust fund, which shall be solely responsible for administering the trust fund.”
Because the Turner amendment would make the city manager responsible for the firefighters’ pension trust fund, its board of trustees no longer would be responsible for it, and that would violate the law. The state’s solution would be to cut off its contribution.
However, Nadalini’s memo 22 months earlier was even more explicit. The current charter says the city audior and clerk shall “serve as the pension administrator of the General Employees Pension Plan.”
Her memo changed and expanded that to say she would “serve as the administrator of the City’s Pension Plans” — not just the general employees’ plan, but the city’s pension plans, plural. That is the same power that Turner would give the city manager.
In other words, Nadalini – who sits on two of the city’s three pension boards – made the same mistake nearly two years before Fournier caught the problem in Turner’s amendment.
Nadalini amendment would solve her problem
However, the same “housekeeping amendment” would eliminate a major problem for Nadalini. As previously reported here, she has been unable to obtain a surety bond since she took the city auditor and clerk’s position in 2010. The charter “housekeeping amendment” would allow an insurance policy to take the place of a bond.
When the Charter Review Committee, and later the Sarasota City Commission, reviewed the proposed charter changes, they were unaware Nadalini was unqualified for a surety bond, having twice tried and failed to obtain one. Then-City Manager Bob Bartolotta and Human Resources Head Kurt Hoverter were aware of the failure, but they did not inform the City Commission that Nadalini was in violation of the city charter’s requirement for a bond.