Manatee commission's hope to undo Hunzeker's retirement could be expensive

skennedy@bradenton.comJanuary 14, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County Commission's effort to delay the retirement of its county administrator could be expensive.

If County Administrator Ed Hunzeker decides to not retire as planned in 2014, he stands to forfeit a lump sum payout of $337,411.83, along with monthly retirement benefits of $6,099.47, a state official said.

That's because Hunzeker is a member of the state's Deferred Retirement Option Program, better know as DROP. Under DROP, Hunzeker continues to earn his annual salary of $169,124.80, while his monthly retirement benefits are held in trust for up to five years, earning interest at 6.50 percent annually, said county government spokesman Nick Azzara.

The program was designed to encourage older employees to retire, so younger, less expensive ones could take their places.

Hunzeker, 65, said he signed up for the DROP program at age 62 and is slated to leave his job on Aug. 31, 2014.

"An FRS (Florida Retirement System) member who does not terminate all employment with FRS participation for six calendar months after retirement or the end of DROP participation will void retirement," said Ben Wolf, director of communications for the Florida Department of Management Services.

Not only that, the county would have to repay all benefits to which Hunzeker was entitled, including any DROP payout, according to Wolf.

But exactly how much retaining Hunzeker might cost altogether would depend upon what arrangement the county proposed.

Manatee County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle on Tuesday won unanimous permission from his colleagues to try to keep Hunzeker on the job.

Bustle acknowledged it could cost money.

"It would require that we acknowledge the risk he's taking in giving up his retirement options under the DROP program, and the fact he would need to be compensated for that risk," Bustle said.

Bustle argued that Hunzeker was "under-compensated compared to all the surrounding counties and cities with similar positions," adding he thought that could be documented.

"But the primary goal would be to keep him whole from the dollars he would have earned … or he will have earned at the end of his DROP term," Bustle continued. "And recognize the risk he would be taking with a change in contract."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.com.

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