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Tank entitlement

July 17, 2010
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

A proposed contract for manager-select Gary King is set for discussion by the Cape Coral City Council on Monday.

Negotiated by Mr. King and Councilmember Bill Diele, it's an interesting proposal, calling for an estimated $195,873 in total compensation, including $140,000 in base pay and the potential for another $20,000 in bonuses if 11 performance incentives are achieved.

As with most employment contracts outlining money, benefits and responsibilities, the draft contains some areas likely to be argued at the special meeting called for 4:30 p.m.

The concept of bonuses for achievement is a new one for the Cape, at least as such bonuses apply to the top administrative office, and arguments we've already heard range from "achievement should be rewarded" to "the softball goals outlined are part of the job and achievement should be expected."

We'll leave it to council to debate the issue, which really comes down to whether Mr. King's value to the city is $140,000 per year in salary or $160,000.

The issue of greatest concern may appear to be small change in a six-figure context but a benefit that was spawned as a council gimme has wormed its way into an apparent employee entitlement that needs to be quashed, not only in this contract but this budget year.

In addition to base salary, bonuses, dental and vision insurance, a car allowance and city-provided Blackberry-type device, the city proposes to pay Mr. King $950 per month in lieu of health care benefits, another $11,400 added to his base compensation.

The proposed perk has its roots in a resolution Cape Coral City Council passed in 2003 to benefit its own members, not all of whom needed health care insurance but demanded "equal compensation" with those who did.

So the city quietly began making annuity payments that allowed some council members to carry out of office tidy five-figure policies equal to, on average, $7,000 for each year served.

This year, in the midst of one of the most serious budget crises in Cape Coral's history, it approved a trial policy whereby existing employees were allowed to opt out of medical coverage and receive a cash payment instead.

Now the city proposes to extend that entitlement to a top-paid employee at a time when private sector workers are lucky if they can obtain employer-compensated health insurance at all.

We do not begrudge the payment of health care benefits to current employees who need it.

But cash instead is not "fair," it's a handout unheard of in the private sector which also, by the way, does not write checks for those who don't use vacation days and other paid days off.

Cut the $950 cash in lieu of premiums from the contract Monday and, while council has the nail snips out, prepare to nip the annuities and any additional "trial programs" from the overall city budget as well.

There may be some who will say this entitlement is petty cash.

For those who think so, let us put it in context.

The $950 per month the city proposes to pay our incoming city manager for health care benefits he apparently does not need is $2 a month more than the average Florida resident receives monthly in unemployment compensation.

With more than 13 percent of the city's workforce unemployed, in a community with one of the highest jobless and foreclosure rates in the nation, there's nothing petty about it.

- Breeze editorial



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