Two unrelated events occurred yesterday that really got me thinking about all of the issues and events that affect the Tallahassee real estate market. First was an email from a Tallahassee homeowner who needed advice on her home.
She is one of the victims of high unemployment, pay cuts, and lost jobs that have occurred in our area due to the struggling economy. The one chord that really struck with me was when she pointed out that she had worked for the State for 20 years yet had to take a cut in pay to remain employed. This is not the first time that I have seen this occur, and my heart goes out to her.
The second and totally unrelated event was an article that was published on the Opinion Page yesterday in the Tallahassee Democrat. Mr. Erwin Jackson has raised a question of the legality of the raise that the City Commissioners gave themselves without putting it to a public vote.
I really recommend that you watch the video below and you read the opinion piece in the newspaper because if this is truly an unlawful act on the part of our City Commissioners, then there needs to be a loud response by the residents of Tallahassee.
The point in tying these two unrelated events together is that during a time when people are calling me for advice about keeping their homes, even though their jobs have been reduced or terminated, I find it hard to read about City Commissioners giving themselves a 61% raise. Had this gone to a vote, would you have voted these part-time public servants a raise?
Erwin Jackson Asks Attorney General To Review Deferred Compensation
I do not claim to be an expert (nor do I want to be one) in the field of politics. Nevertheless, this issue is at the heart of our depressed housing market, so I will do my best to convey Mr. Jackson's point of view. If I miss something or do something that is incorrect, I trust our readers will correct me and I can make the correction.
- On April 13, 2005, with a simple 4-1 vote, commissioners voted to increase their annual compensation for this part-time job from approximately $36,000 to $58,000.
- The City Charter limits the annual salary for city commissioners to $36,000 (or half of what county commissioners make).
- City Attorney Jim English assured the commissioners that the additional $22,000 was deferred compensation not a salary benefit.
- English's objectivity is in question since he is also a recipient of this deferred compensation.
- English serves "at the pleasure" of the City Commission, thus he might find it difficult to tell commissioners that they have violated the charter and must return the $470,734 illegally taken from the city.
- Florida Statutes makes it clear that the amount paid annually to each commissioner under a deferred compensation plan must be included as part of the annual salary. Specifically, the base salary of $36,000 remained constant. The $22,000 was not deferred from the base salary of $36,000. The $22,000 is additional income, not deferred income, and thus violates the City Charter.
- The City Commission should request the Attorney General to perform an outside review of the legality of this "deferred compensation" from its unbiased position.
So, if I understand Mr. Jackson correctly, it looks like our City Commission cooked up a plan to give themselves an unlawful raise by calling it something else. They called it "deferred compensation." Yet they deferred no compensation, they continued to cash their fully-funded paychecks, and they each received an additional $22K per year! Me thinks something is rotten in the state of Denmark!
Erwin Jackson Asks Tallahassee To Demand More Of Its Leadership
Mr. Jackson stated:
Tallahassee city commissioners are elected to be public servants, and we give them our public trust to represent our community interest. Now, however, many residents are questioning whether our commissioners are serving themselves instead.
Erwin Jackson will be speaking at the City Commission meeting, in City Chambers, today (December 2, 2009) at approximately 5:00 p.m. He asks that any and all concerned citizens be there to voice their objections as well. Additionally, he encourages letters to the editor at the Tallahassee Democrat and the submitting of "Zings" if they are appropriate.
Erwin Jackson Requests Outside Review Of Deferred Compensation
The following video takes about 4 minutes, but it shows Mr. Jackson asking the City Commission to seek an independent review of this action by the Attorney General's office. He is swiftly told that the City Commission's attorney (who also got a 61% raise) had said it was fine and no outside review was needed...
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Joe Manausa, MBA is a 26 year veteran of real estate brokerage in Tallahassee, Florida and has owned and managed his own company since 1992. He is a daily blogger with content that focuses on real estate analytics and providing his clients with a tactical advantage in today's challenging market.