published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Warner: It is time to set record straight
It is time to set the record straight. I have not conspired, contracted, solicited, or in any way shape or form attempted to close or terminate the City of Avon Park Police Officer Pension Fund.
I was first elected to the pension board in 1986 and, with the exception of a two-year span, have been a board member since that time. I have been the chairman for the past 13 years. In October of 2012, the city council and city manager terminated all but three Avon Park Police officers. There was no merging of departments, there were no promises or guarantees for employment. Those officers had to apply for positions with the Sheriff's Office, go through the hiring process, and hopefully gain employment.
The actions of the council and city manager (Julian Deleon) created concern for the survival of the pension plan by terminated vested and current retirees. The concerns of a conspiracy to terminate this plan, as so eloquently express by our current city manager, are a misrepresentation of the facts.
The facts are this: A person, unknown to me, contacted the State of Florida division of retirement inquiring as to whether or not the actions taken by the Avon Park City Council and the city manager (turning the law enforcement duties over to the S.O.) closed or terminated the pension plan. The Division of Retirement contacted the pension board attorney, Scott Christiansen. Scott contacted the city manager for the job descriptions of the few remaining officers as requested by the Division of Retirement.
The e-mails that have been provided to the city manager are copies that were sent to me keeping me informed, as the chairman, of all matters pertaining to the plan. To share this information with the other trustees would have me violating the "Sunshine Law." There is not one e-mail sent from me to anyone suggesting closing or terminating the plan. The allegations made against me are unsubstantiated. There is no evidence or justification for them other than the fact that I have chosen to run for public office (mayor of Avon Park).
The city manager approached the plan complaining about the administrative costs and attempted to get the board to turn over the adminstrative duties of the plan to The Florida League of Cities. He then presented a program to city council praising the Florida League of Cities and how the league could drastically reduce those cost.
In their presentation, the league stated that this plan was 92 percent funded and very few Florida plans were in this good of shape (if it ain't broke, don,t fix it). When these attempts failed, (Deleon) began to attempt to discredit Carol Knapp, who has been the pension board administrator for some 26 years. This plan has grown from $300,000 to $5.4 million under Mrs. Knapp's watchful eye.
Mr. Deleon then came to the board with a presentation where the board would loan the city $1 million to purchase a water system and be guaranteed an 8 percent return. This request was denied by recommendation of the board attorney as this constitutes a breach of fiduciary responsibilty. Mr. Deleon stated that he began to have suspicions when his officers were asked about their job descriptions in depositions with Bob Grizzard (a man I have only met once). If he had suspicion then, why did he wait until he found out that I was running for mayor to bring these allegations? Was it to attempt to defame my name and destroy my character prior to the election?
I attended a council meeting and did in fact address the council. I explained to them what I knew and that I have never been an advicate of terminating the pension. They did not listen, nor was one word of what I said printed in either Highlands County newspapers. I am sure that Mr. Deleon will have a totally different perspective on this matter, as he always does, but given 8,000 pages of emails and picking only 67 to present, I would bet that anyone could concoct any type of story that they choose.
I entered the Board of Trustees position fully aware of what my fiduciary reponsibilities were. I accepted them willingly and took them very seriously. My responsibilties were to the members of the pension plan. It was never to do the bidding of the city or the city manager. My job was to protect each party equally. I believe I did just that. The plan is healthy and solvent and needs to remain so.
This is about the future of every terminated vested and current retiree. These officers have dedicated their lives to this community and deserve the retirements that they have earned. These officers have families, wives and children that depend on this benefit. I wonder if Mr. Deleon thought about the families of the 60-plus employees he let go, or if this move was just good for business and better for politics? In the past two years, I have been cut to part time (29 hours a week), cut again to 24 hours a week, and once the code enforcement position was reinstated to full time, I was told I would have to re-apply for a position that I already hold or be terminated, as the part-time position is being deleted.
Attempts have been made to slander, degrade and humiliate me before city council in an obvious move to destroy my character before this election. Now even my campaign signs have begun to disappear from private property. Although I am disappointed in the actions of some people, I stand firm on my convictions. I have broken no laws. I upheld my fiduciary responsibilities and my character is intact. I have been accused of running for mayor to oust the city manager. If the city manager does his job and fulfills his obligations to the city council as well as the citizens of Avon Park, he has nothing to fear.
It should be noted that this election is not about the city manager. It is about selecting the right person to take this city forward and return her to the City of Charm as she used to be. The negative pubicity has to stop. We need to start anew and change the way the people of Highlands County view our city, re-estabish community partnerships, promote growth and bring new business to Avon Park.
I know that there are people that will respond to this and that they will adequately enforce their views and positions. I know that they will give a rational explaination on how their cause is right and everyone else's is wrong. So be it. We are all entitled to our own opinions.
Greg Warner is an Avon Park resident who is currently running for mayor. Statements of facts and opinion in guest columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of the News-Sun.
Bubba (by: Blindman~ - 10/22/2013)
Looks like lots of emails not from you but... to you from Carol Knapp talking about fund closure and you never bring any of this up to the other trustees. You & Carol were trying to figure how to do it, then finally you both become convinced "only the city" can close the plan so now your running for mayor to facilitate closing the plan. Only differences, now everybody knows!
Presumptuous attitude (by: Will not renew. - 10/19/2013)
I was surprised that Remick was allowed by a certain fitness center to put up a giant sign in an area that doesn't even belong to them. The sign was "allowed" because his mother is an aerobic instructor at that fitness center. I workout there and because we have to buy a yearly membership, I have no choice but to see his name plastered all over the place. the owners of that center ought not to play favoritism like that especially when they dont even own the property. I pay more in annual membership then what they pay her.They must not think much of their clientele to rub that in our faces.
Bubba Supporters (by: Alfred - 10/18/2013)
For all you wanting to hear our Bubba speak, come on out to Donaldson Park at noon on Saturday for a great BBQ. Free!
Obummer (by: Fr8train - 10/18/2013)
It's obama's fault!
Pablo (by: Someone who knows - 10/18/2013)
You have obviously been misinformed on the responsibilities of pension plan adminisrators throughout Florida. Before making stupid comments--DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I have known Carol Knapp a long time and know her to be an honest, truthful, dedicated and passionate servant to the pension plans and members she represents. Avon Park Police Retirees owe her more than they will ever know in protecting their contributions and promised future benefits (agreed upon by the city council over the years) and continuing to be a woman of her word. She and her husband served the public in law enforcement for years in Dade and Broward Counties. Never any question of their honesty or integrity, I always want her on my side. What you see is what you get with her. No backstabbing and no politics allowed.
Please understand (by: Sincerely - 10/18/2013)
Mr. Warner, the election is not about your pension fund or any negative publicity. Mayor Schuler & Mr. Sutherland have proven leadership qualities and we don't want to risk exchanging that for candidates with no track record. One inexperienced councilman on the board is enough for now. While we wish you and yours the best, we are voting for Schuler & Sutherland.
Man up (by: Jim Barnard - 10/18/2013)
Even though I agree with some or these comments,I think it is time to man up and put your real names to them. If you have an opinion then don't hide behind some nickname. I believe the only real problems we have in this city is a young inexperienced city councilman with an agenda from the get go. Vote for experience,vote for those who attend our meetings,not those that just have an agenda.
Answer (by: Frog - 10/17/2013)
Bubba running for mayor!!!!
To: Thomas D (by: Blindman~ - 10/17/2013)
Thomas D, I'm an independent observer on the outside looking in. Fact I have stated are all on the internet so your mistaken. Though my comments to Mr. Warner may appear cold the observations are purely analytical. A few angry people have raised hell with negative publicity in Avon Park and now Warner & Remick are telling the public that only "they" can solve the problem. It's one of the oldest political tricks in the book.
What I see (by: Cheerleader for Avon Park - 10/17/2013)
Greg Warner is honest, doesn't participate in character assasination, has served the citizens and businesses in Avon Park for years and simply wants to take his service and the city to a higher level. Jonathan Remick is a very qualified small business owner with a Masters degree in Business and a major in Marketing. We need to clean up the image of Avon Park and promote the positives. Things that have not been done for years. Stop the destructive behavior now. Give these men the chance to turn things around. This election is about Avon Park!!!
campaign signs (by: Powershot - 10/16/2013)
If your campaign signs are disappearing maybe its because people are waking up and realizing they don't want to be associated with you or Remick by having your signs in their yard. I have noticed more and more Sutherland and Schuler signs where yours once were. People are not stupid you know. You should be more concerned with convincing people to vote for you, not with putting a sign in their yard anyway.
Uncomfortable (by: Concerned - 10/16/2013)
With a pension plan worth 5.4 million at this time, how does Mr. Warner figure his share alone to be 1 million?
simple math (by: Dagmar - 10/16/2013)
What came first? Bubba runnig for office or deleons allegations? Answering that is key.
Octoberfest (by: hodge wants back - 10/16/2013)
I saw Buba at the Octoberfest with Alfred Hodge who specializes on building home made steel motorcycle trailers. Buba looked like beauty and the Beast next to his young bride.
(by: Pablo - 10/16/2013)
"This plan has grown from $300,000 to $5.4 million under Mrs. Knapp's watchful eye."
Bubba (by: pancho vilas - 10/16/2013)
You want to create a breed of millionaires on the people's back including your girlfriend Roguan.
Opinions (by: not fooled - 10/16/2013)
Go on Barry Foster and let us hear you rather than read something you did not write.
whose your Daddy? (by: Been here - 10/16/2013)
Funny how this exact story was circulating around on Saturday at the lawnmower race track by none other than a local radio talk show host and a co-hort that runs a blog. They were very publicly speaking about the very same comments made by Bubba in this column. Everybody there was acting like they cared but no one fell for it just like I am not falling for it just because its in print. If Bubba is really serious about "setting the record straight" then he should disclose that his largest campaign contributions come from people that are suing the City that want to put a boarding house on Main Street (75 men in 16 rooms). How is going to repay the favor to those people? An that Robocop is the campaign manager. 'Nuff said on just that alone. But then again, it was Bubba that hired robocop way back then and I guess old favors are never ending. what has Bubba offered Robocop as a thank you gift if elected? City manager job? A lawsuit settlement check? The good ole' boys are alive and well in Avon aprk and voting for Bubba just takes us back to the 50's with favors and cronyism.
Terrible (by: Standing with Bubba - 10/16/2013)
What makes me the most sick after reading this article is the fact that no one will stand with Bubba! Is everyone in the City of Avon Park that cowardly? Have you all given up on your City? This man Deleon took away your Police Department, fired over 50 employees and is no planting seeds of doubt with OUR Fire Fighters pension. It is time to stand up against our Council Members who do nothing for us. They back Deleon even when he embarrasses our City on "The Barry Foster Show". These Council members are a joke! They have no back bone. Get them all out!
It's time to set the record straight (by: Frog - 10/16/2013)
Mr warner you have and are doing a great job in serving the city yes it's really sad that some people don't care to know your heart that you really do care for a lot of people well it's their lost not wanting to know a good man
Disgusted (by: Disturbed - 10/16/2013)
Am I the only one who remembers that Deleon works for the city council, not the other way around? Mr. Warner I commend your integrity and thank you for you 20+ years of service to the City of Avon Park. Deleon acts like a child who had his toy taken away everytime someone goes against his way of thinking. I know I am embarrassed everytime I read something about the City of Avon Park and I live in the county. I have had numerous conversations with multiple residents who are appalled at the atrocities that happen under this City Council. It is time to get who we can out. Sutherland and Schuler have done nothing but become pawns for Deleon and his facist regime. Thank you Mr. Warner for stepping up to Deleon and being a voice for the residents of my hometown!
Disgusted (by: Disturbed - 10/16/2013)
Am I the only one who remembers that Deleon works for the city council, not the other way around? Mr. Warner I commend your integrity and thank you for you 20+ years of service to the City of Avon Park. Deleon acts like a child who had his toy taken away everytime someone goes against his way of thinking. I know I am embarrassed everytime I read something about the City of Avon Park and I live in the county. I have had numerous conversations wiyh multiple residents who are appalled at the atrocities that happen under this City Council. It is time to get who we can out. Sutherland and Schuler have done nothing but become pawns for Deleon and his facist regime. Thank you Mr. Warner for stepping up to Deleon and being a voice for the residents of my hometown!
Finally the truth. How refreshing!!!! (by: Hope in Avon Park???? - 10/16/2013)
Fellow Citizens of Avon Park, Please do your homework and get out and vote. The future of "The City of Charm" will be decided by what you do at the polls. If you don't care about the city's downward spiral over the last couple of years and you want to believe the lies from several on the city council, then you will vote for more of the same. If you have a more positive outlook for Avon Park's future you will support Greg "Bubba" Warner and Jonathan Remick. Let's commit to abiding by the laws instead of skirting around the edges and twisting them. The skirting, twisting and creative interpretation is how lawsuits can happen. Show your support for honest, christian candidates and vote for WARNER for Mayor and REMICK for Councilperson. There is still hope for Avon Park and it's citizen taxpayers.
Truth (by: City resident - 10/16/2013)
Good job Mr. Warner. All over town people are talking about what an upstanding, good guy you are. It is a shame that Mr. Deleon tried to throw trash at your good name. If people only knew all the stories behind the scenes. People are waking up and realizing they have been had by our current administration.
Not Fooled (by: Blindman~ - 10/16/2013)
When your hours were cut to part time you lost your health insurance and later you had a heart attack and plunged into debt. Carol Knapp blamed Deleon and said it was "unconscionable"! Your in debt right now, and you never said you didn't consider or think about terminating the plan... your claim sounds like a legal statement only, not coming from the heart. The kicker is where if you could actually get on the City Council with another candidate, Remick, it would all fall into place where you, Anderson, and Remick could form a majority and vote to terminate "the plan". I'm a Highland County resident and have a great deal of respect for Avon Park despite all the negative publicity your surreptitious faction has created. Oh, and you left out where Carol said She receive the "inquiry" from someone about the plan and referred them to the State. I suppose it was by telephone instead of email... or it would be documented. Only with a "documented inquiry" could you raise reasonable doubt.
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