Fruitland Park City Commissioners drop plan giving themselves pensions

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FRUITLAND PARK, Fla. - Facing a meeting room filled with angry citizens Thursday night, Fruitland Park City Commissioners dropped a plan to give themselves a pension.

The proposed city ordinance would have forced taxpayers to give the part-time commissioners monthly retirement checks equal to 50 percent of their pay once they serve 15 years in office. If they stay in office for 25 years, they would get checks equal to 100 percent of their salaries, for life. They would not have to contribute to the pension fund.

Mayor Chris Bell, Vice Mayor Sharon Kelly and commissioner John Gunter would already qualify.

The proposal triggered a controversy that led to a packed house at the meeting Thursday night.

"I have lost all respect for every one of you," one resident told the commissioners.

"There is no part-time job I've ever had, or that I ever hope to have, that's going to give me 100 percent of what I made while doing that job for the rest of my life," said resident Tim Garlow.

Garlow was so outraged by the proposal that he mobilized a campaign and handed out flyers, hoping to get the word out and keep it from happening.

He said he sees it as a waste of taxpayer money.

"There are a lot of things we should be spending money on and this should not be one of them," said Garlow.

Garlow said if the commissioners ran for re-election and lost, essentially fired by the voters, they'd still get the pensions.

Even though commissioners voted not to go forward with the plan, people were still upset that the issue was even brought up.

"You've got police officers on this Police Department, that with children and a wife would receive free lunches at the elementary school, and yet you have the audacity to think that you deserve a lifetime pension," resident Michael Howard told the commissioners.

Much larger Lake County cities like Clermont do not pay pensions to its part-time city council members.

Leesburg does, but only two retired commissioners there get it.