By LEAH STRATMANN
The first order of business for the first meeting of the year for the South Walton Fire District (SWFD) was a report from Kevin Boyer with O’Sullivan Creel concerning the audit through the last fiscal year.
“This audit is through Sept. 30, 2010. This year we had the pleasure of meeting with the audit committee. This is the first year such a committee has been in place,” Boyer noted.
Boyer reported the audit was unqualified. With “everything adhering to standard practices of accounting with no internal control deficiencies noted.”
Commissioner Jack Abit, a member of the audit committee said he would have a meeting of the audit committee specifically to discuss the report and if the committee is able to meet in January, will make a report to the entire board in February.
Bryan Flanagan, fiscal officer for SWFD said he has met with the attorney for the pension plan and the option of any investment in real estate for the money has been removed. “On behalf of the pension plan, I request approval of the resolution which would bring the district up to current IRS rules and state of Florida rules and Department of Labor regulations,” Flanagan said.
“These are items required by the IRS to clean up and make our policies legal, correct,” asked chairman Maurice Gilbert.
Flanagan assured him the changes were administrative and again said, “The pension board cannot invest in real estate at this time.”
Lori Bytell, attorney for the district, noted she had reviewed the administrative handbook. “Nothing of substance needs to be changed. The persons who worked on this document did an excellent job,” she said.
Bytell said she also reviewed the policy on whistleblowers.
“I have two areas of concern. There are state and federal policies in place to protect whistleblowers and I wondered at the intent of the document. I also wondered who is going to be the overseer of this policy? I don’t have a problem with a policy that says a person reporting criminal activity is protected, but if we are going to have a policy we need to clearly define how we handle that policy. I don’t know that we need the additional layering when there are state and federal protection laws.”
No action was taken on the whistleblower policy.
A compromise solution was found between the union and district regarding adaptive staffing, which the union opposed. The district agreed to use the $105,000 in unexpended salaries to fill in the gaps for overtime. When that money is gone, the union has agreed to postpone bargained benefits for the remainder of the year and not to move forward with litigation if adaptive staffing has to be implemented again.
Chief Rick Talbert noted, “The board has to agree to this plan. We also have four articles needing to be addressed before March because they have some significant financial impact. The board directed me to freeze all hiring and reduce overtime. As a method to do that we came up with adaptive staffing and this solution led to working with labor which has been consuming time since October,” he said.
Abit said, “It makes sense to me and the chief and the union says it makes sense.”
The board voted to accept the compromise solution worked out between the district and the union.
Leah Stratmann may be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org