Under proposed contract, Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker would forfeit $337,411.83, but get big raise

skennedy@bradenton.comJanuary 25, 2013 

MANATEE -- In an effort to delay the retirement of County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, a new five-year contract offer would give Hunzeker a big pay raise but cut a hefty lump-sum retirement payment.

Hunzeker would forfeit a payment of $337,411.83, for which he is eligible under a state retirement program, but would get instead a $34,720.20 annual raise under terms of a proposed new contract, officials said Thursday.

Under the proposal, Hunzeker would delay his retirement five years, through Jan. 29, 2018, they said.

His current salary is $169,124.80, while his proposed salary would be $203,845, said Karen Windon, deputy county administrator, who met Thursday morning with The Herald editorial board to discuss the proposal.

Once he did retire, he would also get a boost in his $6,099.47 monthly state retirement checks under terms of the proposed contract, she said.

The monthly retirement checks would be held in abeyance until he retired; then, they would be larger because the Florida Retirement System calculates an employee's pension based on his highest five years' earnings, Windon said.

County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle negotiated the contract proposal with Hunzeker. It is slated for discussion 11 a.m. Tuesday during a meeting of the Manatee County Commission.

Commissioners have praised Hunzeker's efforts and unanimously voted to try to delay his retirement.

Hunzeker, 65, signed up at age 62 for the Florida Retirement System's Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP), which strictly regulates a member's retirement. Right now, he is scheduled to retire Aug. 31, 2014.

He does not pay anything toward his retirement, as other county employees do, according to Nick Azzara, the county's information outreach coordinator.

"When the Legislature began making Florida Retirement System employees contribute 3 percent of their annual salaries in 2011, it did not apply to those FRS members who were already in the DROP, so Ed does not pay into the system," said Azzara.

The proposed contract also gives Hunzeker the maximum amount for his deferred retirement account that is similar to a 401(k), but is for government employees, said Windon.

Hunzeker has remained at his current salary for years because he routinely declined raises for himself, since his employees went without, Windon said.

"It was a long-overdue salary increase," she said of the proposed contract amount, adding that Hunzeker's current salary is "way below" the market.

A table listing annual salaries of county administrators in 13 counties, including Manatee, showed Charlotte County at the low end, at $150,000, while Broward County was at the high end at $290,000. Hunzeker's current salary ranked second from the bottom, according to the table, provided by Azzara.

Bustle could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

An email message making the rounds Thursday claimed Hunzeker should retire now because he had been "obstructive, on the side of the developers and Mosaic, and has done a disservice to the citizens of Manatee County."

"I don't see any reason to keep him," said Carole Pelletier, 76, a retiree whose name was among those on the email missive.

"I guess Mosaic wants to keep him, but I wish Mr. Bustle would do county business instead of Mosaic's," said Pelletier, referring to the phosphate company that needs county permission to operate mines in eastern Manatee County.

"I agree with other people: I don't think Hunzeker did such a great job," Pelletier said.

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

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