Cop Union, Mayor Trade Shots In Angry Fight

 

BY JOSEPH J. MERCOGLIANO

 

 

The Sun Sentinel recently ran an article regarding the financial MESS the City of Plantation is in.

Plantation Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic characterized men and women police officers as having an “entitlement mindset” when it comes to contract negotiations.  The mayor went on to state the Fraternal Order of Police has received raises of up to 8% and we have not taken any cuts/steps to help alleviate the financial situation in the city.

This Sun-Sentinel article was originally supposed to be about how the City’s Finance Director Krista Caravella stated to us the City is on the “verge of bankruptcy.”  This was said during January’s contract session.

In the article seen in the link here, Gary Shimun, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, stated that the Police Department should make up the upcoming $3 million budget deficit because other departments have.  That is the farthest thing from the truth.

A simple analysis of the past City Budgets will disprove his statement.

The Police Department has lost over 20+ Officers via attrition since 2007 along with numerous civilian positions.  Our capital account is almost non-existent and we have cut our budget by millions each year.

While it is true we received raises the past six years, they neglected to state the FOP took a one-year pay freeze in 2009, has offered to pay for our take home vehicles since 2008 and it was the City who negotiated and ratified the contracts we have worked under since 2006 which included the beginning of the economic downturn in the economy and housing market.

The City is well aware that they would have to wait until the end of the contract to re-negotiate or just contact us to reopen the contract, which they did not do during 2009-2012.  The current Mayor was a sitting Council member when she voted on every single contract during her tenure.  Our current mayor also receives a Florida Retirement System Pension and her husband receives a City Police Pension.

The Mayor is claiming the FOP is not willing to accept sacrifice as part of the negotiations, which is just not true.  Our last proposal (five since June 2012) to the city totaled approximately $650,000 in savings to the City. The city turned the offers down!

They included:

(1)No raises for three years.

(2) Paying for our take-home vehicles (a dollar amount they recommended!),

(3) Starting a new pension plan for new hires (in addition to the new pension plan we created for new hires in 2009.),

(4) Taking three furlough days this year,

(5) Reducing our uniform stipend,

(6) Increasing our pension contribution to 11 percent from the current 9.5 percent,

(7) Paying more for our healthcare,

(8) Eliminating standby court pay,

(9) reducing overtime costs by accepting the Fair Labor Standards Act Exemption, and

(10) Increasing the administrative cost paid to the city for off-duty details.

On top of all this, the FOP is also accepting no pay raises, no STEP pay raises nor are we receiving longevity payments since our contract has expired.

The City turned all this down because they only want what they want.  A lot of what they are proposing is nothing more than vindictiveness.

As an example, they want to restructure the current police pension to eliminate the option to work and retire at 20 years and increase this to age 55 AND 25 years of service.  After serving 22 years, this would require me to work an additional 15 years to reach age 55 and I would have served 37 years!  Their proposal would also reduce my take home salary by $10,000 + per year and reduce my pension from $60,000 to $40,000 per year.  All after serving this city for over 22 years!

The City of Plantation is conducting business as usual.

Building Community Centers, making Midtown roads pretty for aesthetics (not safety) and still hiring personnel while they are crying poverty.  Last year they did not give out raises for the General Employees (4 years in a row), eliminated 12 positions at the Police Department, furloughed employees for 3 days and laid off 8 employees.  The City keeps claiming they want to do business as usual and keep Plantation the way it was and is.  Unfortunately, because of horrible fiscal management, it is in the situation it is today.

Balancing the budget on the backs of all Plantation employees is not the answer and wrong.

The FOP is willing to negotiate.  The key word is negotiating.  Not accept a proposal from the City as gospel with a take it or leave it attitude.

(Joseph J. Mercogliano is the president of the Fraternal Order of Police – Plantation.)

 



18 Responses to “Cop Union, Mayor Trade Shots In Angry Fight”

  1. lms says:

    plantation is not alone in facing tough budget issues…most towns, cities , counties and states have been dealing w/ this problem since the US economy and housing market tanked several years ago…its a harsh reality, but there is no silver bullet….no easy fix manual that public finance officials & desperatecan

  2. Strong Mayors Suck says:

    The strong mayor form of government is a corrupt form of local government. Just look at the example set just next door in Sunrise by the late Mayor Lomelo. Or the more recent example set by Roger Wishner who also took a run at reverting back to a strong Mayor form of government. It doesn’t work.

    The questions Plantation tax payers have to ask is why have a strong mayor (mayor/city manager) and a chief administrative officer (city manager) making roughly the same salary and benefits?
    Also, if the mayor wanted the city’s only union to lobby residents to support a tax increase, what happened to that increase? The residents need to demand an external impartial audit of their city’s finances. Something smells dirty in Plantation.

    FROM BUDDY:

    Corruption form of government? Oh, you mean Michael Bloomberg or Rudy Guiliani or, going back, Fiorello La Guardia.

    Strong mayors are generally more receptive to the public because they have to run for office. In contract, city managers tend to be remote, isolated and sometimes arrogant. I can give many examples in office now….

    However, many times city managers are professional administrators.

    Plantation has a manager who works for the mayor.

  3. lms says:

    oops, cat ran across my laptop…to continue my thought:
    no easy fix manual that public finance officials & City Managers can point to for cover when they submit budget solutions and recommedations to thier elected bosses….cuts hurt unions/employees…raising revenues thru tax/fee increases angers voters….outsource some operations to the private sector? maybe…change the compensation package for new hires? probably…make up the shortfall by just sticking to core services? How about spreading the rest among the tens of thousands of property owners with just a nominal increase instead of a significant decrease in wages to a few hundred employees? all possible, but name calling and finger pointing wont get it done…Good luck Plantation

  4. you wonder says:

    Dude, you chase down kids drinking beer and write traffic tickets. Plantation police is a perfect example of a city that should merge with BSO. Whoop de doo you got a pay freeze one year. I support the mayor.
    If you think the public is on your side, look to Hollywood.

  5. Ever Vigilant Parent says:

    If Plantation does in fact have a Manager who works for the Mayor? Then why exactly is the salary of the Mayor so High? I believe it is on the level of a City Manager? And, if the Mayor has a City Manager that works for the Mayor why is she considered a Strong Mayor? And what does the other elected officials do? Anything?

  6. wonderisaniddiot says:

    Hey wonder, whats wrong couldnt pass the required task to be one? Dont hate, just pay that ticket and get off the illegal porn sites, or a knock will be coming to your door.

  7. Duke says:

    I got a ticket from a Plantation cop for doing a bump and roll at a stop sign. The ticket was about a days pay. Does the cop who hit me up for a days pay because I did a bump and roll expect me to feel sorry for him because he might actually have to start using his own car to travel to and from work? All of these municipal police departments in Broward should be merged into BSO. Additionally, we have damn near 40 municipalities in Broward County. That’s way to many. Start merging cities too.

  8. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    To this Mayor in Plantation. Never bite the hand (Police) that feeds you……Besides public safety is number one. The Police personel don’t derserve to have to fight, litagate, etc for every dime.

  9. Councilman Bob Levy says:

    THE FOLLOWING IS A NEWS RELEASE RECEIVED FROM PLANTATION COUNCILMAN BOB LEVY:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, CONTACT:
    Councilman Bob Levy
    (954) 321-????

    PLANTATION, FL- Councilman BobLevy issued the following statement today regarding recent publicity in the Sun-Sentinel surrounding the City of Plantation’s financial health.

    “For the past eight years, I have carefully monitored the City’s finances to protect our taxpayers from mismanagement and abuse of the public trust. Today, I am demanding accountability and transparency from Mayor Diane Bendekovic and her administrative team. It is simply unacceptable that we as elected Councilmembers should learn from the newsmedia that the City is on the brink of bankruptcy and crisis. I am calling on Mayor Bendekovic to set the record straight and be forthcoming with the Council and the public about the true financial health of Plantation.” I will be asking the Mayor to provide a detailed explanation at our meeting on Feb. 6th.

    A Jan. 28 article in the Sun-Sentinel stated that Plantation is facing a $3 million budget deficit in the next year. Councilman Levy questions the accuracy of the projection proffered by Gary Shimun, Plantation’s chief administrative officer.

    “I refuse to give the Mayor and Mr. Shimun a pass on this one. The City’s residents and employees were assured by the Mayor that the recent millage rate increase the Council reluctantly approved would alleviate any potential financial crisis in Plantation in the immediate future. I am questioning whether the Mayor and her staff are using this projection as a scare tactic as part of the ongoing police negotiations.”

    Bob Levy was elected to the Plantation City Council in 2005.

  10. BCDevelopment says:

    More childlike antics from another of our local elected officials….this Councilman acts shocked saying “It is simply unacceptable that we as elected Councilmembers should learn from the newsmedia that the City is on the brink of bankruptcy and crisis”….If that is truly the first time he is being exposed to the possiblity that his city might be running into the financial danger zone, than he is beyond inept, even by the standards of the worst local politican…..Hey Bob, you’ve been a Plantation offical for years…try calling the Finance Director once in a while & ask for a speadsheet now and then…maybe knock on the door of your administrator and take him to lunch once a month-pick his brain… Why not send a quarterly email – SUBJECT: “Update please on our financials” …This bogus press release smacks of everything thats wrong w/ the majority of our elected leaders….there’s nothing sincere about it….there’s always a motive and agenda behind every word and action….Most descent & well intented folks in our communities steer clear of holding public office… As a result, far too often we get stuck w/ retreads, sons & daughters of previous office holders or so called power brokers, folks with narcistic personality disorders, rejects & failures from the private sector, or just plain old morally empty white collar crooks….yep, that pretty much sums the political scene in Broward.

  11. Strong Mayors Suck says:

    To bcdevelopment: Why was Shimun fired from Davie? Withholding information from Davie’s elected officials. Even if Bob called the director, do you truly believe an honest answer would’ve given? If you do, then it is you who are truly inept, among other things.

  12. BCDevelopment says:

    to Strong Mayors Suck (nice name really? try acting like an adult)….A sitting public official or anyone else for that matter can request any and all City documents (expect those exempt from sunirse law- usually regarding economic development projects) thru a simple public records request at the city clerks’s office…..most people (perhaps even inept local officals) can read & understand finanicals, spreadsheets, & other financial reports city’s are requied by law to publish….If you’re implying that the City of Plantation has department heads that are dishonest and lie to their elected bosses then perhaps you should contact the State Attorney’s office…I would hope the people who we elect to represent us do “knock on doors” “ask questions” and “request documentation” and if the information and answers that come back appear dishonest or misleading fire the source & hire a trustworthy professional….instead of playing games to score political points…..City officials need to find a solution for long term financial stability of the City.

  13. Biscuits N Gravy says:

    Okay, so we’re in the midst of a financial downturn… and what does the city council (that includes you, Levy) do? it brings in as finance director someone with no public sector accounting or municipal bond market experience (except here in plantation… and when she was budget director last year she tried to bail out midterm by applying for a job with Sunrise). But hey, she does have a PhD in … public relations…from FAU (which everyone knows is nothing but a feeder school for madison avenue sharpies…).

    Look, Plantation has been mismanaged since the last few years of the Armstrong era. Diane doesn’t have the intellectual horsepower for the job; strong rumors place her in Alachua County by the end of 2014. Want to deny that mayor? For the record? Levy supposedly lives in a condo on Hollywood beach most of the time and his day job is managing the Broward city with the most trailer parks; Pete has turned out to be a disappointing “don’t rock the boat” kind of guy when things needed shaken up (and let’s be clear– after Rico’s performance on the PAL Board he deserved to be replaced); Moody at least had enough brains not to run again– and has listed her house for sale, but Fadgen is coming back for sloppy seconds. Hell,even our outsiders are insiders– Fadgen faces off against a Holness family member in his race.

    So Plantation is screwed. Sad.

  14. Plantation Working Mom says:

    The City of Plantation is a joke. Just look around. They have one of the highest millage rates in Broward County but the worst looking parks. They have brick entrance signs all over the place but poorly planned and planted trees that are a complete total eyesore. Just drive down Sunrise Blvd. and check out the trees hacked because some idiot planted them under power lines. The Mayor better step it up and straighten out her city. Why don’t you ask your neighboring City of Sunrise how they are able to keep the taxpayers happy, keep the police happy, maintain beautiful parks and fields and have a surplus?!

    FROM BUDDY:

    You might have a problem with Plantation, but it does not have one of the “highest millage rates in Broward County.” More than half the cities and towns have higher millage, including Sunrise. Sunrise also has raised various fees. Sunrise did not run a surplus this year, but balanced its books by using money from a rainy day fund.

    The highest millage is Lauderdale Lakes, a horribly managed city that should be abolished and portions given to other cities. Lauderdale Lakes’ millage is more than 5.2 mills higher than Plantation.

  15. Pass the Buck says:

    It is just amazing that Bob “Doc” Levy a sitting councilperson in PlantaTION AND ALSO THE TOWN MANAGER OF PEMBROKE PARK IS “SHOCKED” AT THE BUDGET CRISIS THE CITY FACES, WHEN HE VOTED FOR MOST IF NOT ALL OF THE EXPENDITURES AND TAX RAISES THAT ARE IMPOSED ON THE RESIDENTS. DOESN’T A TOWN MANAGER HAVE OR SHOULD HAVE AN AWARENESS OF HOW MONEY IS SPENT AND ALLOCATED OR DOES ONE GO DEAF, DUMB AND BLIND WHEN HE LEAVES THE TOWN LIMITS OF PEMBROKE PARK AND GOES HOME TO PLANTATION TO SIT ON THE CITY COUNCIL? I DO NOT KNOW WHICH IS WORSE,HIS HYPOCRISY DURING THIS ELECTION SEASON TO COMPLAIN ABOUT A LACK OF TRANSPARENCY TO OBSCURE HIS PARTIAL RESPONSIBILITY AS A SITTING COUCILMAN FOR THIS FINANCIAL MESS OR BEING “BLIND/UNAWARES” WHILE THE TRAIN WRECK WAS ROLLING DOWN THE TRACK DURING HIS TENURE, SINCE HE IS A TOWN MANAGER AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT/AWARENESS SHOULD BE PART OF HIS MANAGEMENT SKILL SET

  16. Pass the Buck says:

    Buddy
    I would like to add one more comment to the above one since it is awaiting moderation
    When I saw ‘Doc’ Levy’s press release, I immeadiately thought of the scence from Casablanca when Insp.Renaud(the great Claude Rains)walks into Rick’s Cafe, gets a few drinks, comp gambling chips and then a short while later blows his whistle and shouts out “I am shocked” that gambling is going on here!!! and shuts the place down for the night. It’s just amazing the whistle was blown here when he is up for re election.

  17. Another Plantation Mom says:

    To “Plantation Working Mom”- one can definitely argue that the city didn’t “need” the brick entrance signs, but to infer that our city is esthetically inferior to Sunrise, are you kidding me? If you have children who play sports then you will know that we have some of the nicest parks in Broward and others pay to use our fields for events.
    I am glad Buddy corrected you on the millage rate, which has been one of the lowest in Broward for a very long time and needed to be raised before now.

    Ok, now lets address the despicable “it must be election-time” news release from Councilman Levy:
    I am embarrassed that three of our council members (Levy, Stoner and Uria) continually go to the press (usually to their shills over at the Sun Sentinel) to air their grievances.
    “BC Development” made many salient points- especially that we elect these people to ask the hard questions, to represent the citizens of this city, not their own self-interests.

    It is clear if you follow any of the political melodrama in Plantation that Stoner, Uria, Fadgen, Petrocelli and now perhaps even Levy (wasn’t he involved somehow in the whole Rico PAL party ethics-investigation?) are only interested in pushing their own agenda – and it somehow always comes back to their hatred for the Mayor. Agree with her, don’t agree with her, support them, I don’t really care…but I for one am sick of the pettiness and infighting.

    Plantation, like Sunrise and many others, was guilty in the past of tapping into their reserves- it is now time to pay the piper.
    We have a terrific community- always room for improvement- but hard choices need to be made.
    I am sorry, Officer Mercogliano, but while I respect the PD, I have little sympathy for your overall plight- concessions need to be made. Why shouldn’t an officer work until he is 55?
    I support unions, but the pensions are out of hand.

    On a final note, a city thrives on luring new businesses and large corporations to the area, Bob Levy and Co. are more threatening to our economic well- being with their antics than anything else I’ve read…a simple internet search regarding mention of our present and former council members in the press is enough to make anyone think twice about investing in Plantation. Sad, because I love my city.

  18. Plantation Working Mom says:

    I stand corrected regarding my comment about the millage rate. However, Plantation does have a higher millage rate than Coral Springs and Weston, both superior cities to Plantation. In fact, have you driven around those city parks and fields lately? They are pristine. My kids have played Plantation sports since the age of 5 and are now in high school. Sunset Park has nice fields, but Central Park’s baseball fields need a lot of work. I’m sorry but the City of Sunrise seems better maintained to me and it seems to me that they do a lot more for their community.

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