The City’s Appointed Officials Cash-In with Deferred Compensation

When you ask the City of Tallahassee about the salaries of appointed officials, you will not get the true measure of the taxpayer burden without seeking further clarification.

It appears the City of Tallahassee is misleading the citizens about the taxpayer burden of various officials by providing salary information instead of compensation.

Until the recent State Attorney’s investigation into the controversial 2005 vote on deferred compensation, many believed that only the elected officials were getting deferred compensation added to their salary.

It turns out this is not the case.

Most deferred compensation plans allow employees to contribute a portion of their base salary to a tax deferred account.

However, the City of Tallahassee rewards appointed officials with additional “compensation” through an IRS  deferred compensation plan, described in IRC section 457, which is available to state and local governments under IRC Section 501.

The program allows the City of Tallahassee to contribute “compensation” in addition to the salaries of key officials. Each year the IRS sets a maximum limit that can be contributed by local governments.

Guess what? The City of Tallahassee chooses to contribute the maximum annual amount, which in 2015 and 2016 is $24,000.

This means the appointed officials get an additional $24,000 in “compensation.” The table below shows the current salaries and the additional “compensation” for City of Tallahassee appointed officials.

NamePositionBase SalaryDeferred Comp.Total Compensation
Rick FernandezCity Manager228,00024,000252,000
Lewis ShelleyCity Attorney204,27624,000228,276
Jim CookeCity Treasurer Clerk151,28524,000175,285
Bert FletcherCity Auditor142,87324,000166,873

How do these salaries and compensation compare to other jurisdictions?

TR has submitted information requests to Pensacola, Gainesville and Lakeland. To date, the only complete response has been provided by the City of Gainesville. Their response is provided below:

The current salaries for the requested positions are as follows:

City Manager                                     $222,000.00

City Attorney                                     $177,523.50

City Auditor                                        $130,000.00

The City does not provide a deferred compensation program for these positions. These employees have the option of participating in the defined benefit plan or the defined contribution plan. These employees also have the option of participating in the City’s 457 plan, but there is no employer contribution to that plan.

Unlike the City of Tallahassee, the City of Gainesville provides a deferred compensation program plan that allow employees to contribute a portion of their base salary to a tax deferred account.

Comparing the information provided by the City of Gainesville with the City of Tallahassee, the average salaries of appointed officials in the City of Tallahassee are $15,000 higher than appointed officials in Gainesville.

When you consider the City of Tallahassee’s additional “deferred compensation”, the average compensation for each of the City of Tallahassee appointed officials is $39,200 higher than appointed officials in the City of Gainesville.

TR will update this story when the requested information is provided by other local governments.

One Response to "The City’s Appointed Officials Cash-In with Deferred Compensation"

  1. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot   October 10, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    You should also report on other benefits they may get:
    Take home city car or car allowance
    Life or liability Insurance
    Memberships in country clubs, professional or political organizations or VIP benefits such as boosters, Touchdown Club, Quqrterback Club
    Determine if the city makes any payments to any group that gives city employees special status or benefits such as access to skyboxes.
    Travel expenses daily per diem rate, mileage, meal allowance
    City credit cards, who has been issued cards, who can use them, guidelines, prohibitions, how often audited and by whom. Get copy of most recent card account audits.
    Sick leave and vacation buy back policy.
    I’ll think of more later


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