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“Former Doral officials sue city for revoking their lifetime pensions”. The mayor responds

Four former Doral city officials have filed a lawsuit in response to the City Council’s revocation of a pension plan that provided the city’s elected officials with a lifetime pension, health insurance and life insurance.

The pension plan for elected officials was approved in January 2021 and revoked in June 2023. It benefited elected officials who had served at least eight years or two full terms, who no longer held office and who had reached the age of 60 years.

The council repealed the pension plan with the support of council members Maureen Porras and Rafael Pineyro. Council members Oscar Puig-Corve and Digna Cabral, who were part of the previous government and voted in favor of the pension plan, voted against its dismissal. The complaint was filed nine days later.

The lawsuit, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, was filed by four former Doral employees, including former Mayor Juan Carlos Bermúdez, now a Miami-Dade commissioner, and former council member Pedro Cabrera, who proposed the pension plan. Former board members Michael DiPietro and Sandra Ruiz joined the lawsuit.

Mayor Christi Fraga is now urging the four officials involved in the lawsuit to reconsider their decision, she told the Herald.

“I urge you to reconsider your actions and show true leadership by dismissing the lawsuit and returning the pension plan money that was illegally awarded,” Fraga wrote in a May 8 letter to the former Mayor Bermúdez and former council members Cabrera, Ruiz and DiPietro. . “Our residents deserve transparency, accountability and ethical behavior from their former officials. »

The four plaintiffs told Nuevo Herald that they never received a letter from Fraga. The letter was provided to Nuevo Herald by a former political candidate from Doral.

Fraga said the letter was sent by postal mail. “The postal service may be running slower,” she said.

Fraga had told the Nuevo Herald that the approved pensions were “immoral” and unaffordable for Doral.

“Right now it’s $500,000 a year, but in the long term it could reach up to $10 million, depending on how many people benefit from this pension,” the mayor said.

The 2021 ordinance entitles elected officials who have served eight years or two full terms to a pension equivalent to 50% of the average of their last three years of remuneration. Those who have served 12 years or more could be entitled to a pension equivalent to 100% of the average of their last three years of earnings. In addition, retirees are entitled to health and life insurance.

A Ronald Reagan School student hugs candidate Peter Cabrera after learning of his victory against Bettina Rodríguez-Aguilera for Doral City Councilwoman, at Braseros Restaurant in the Town of Doral, Tuesday, November 4, 2014.A Ronald Reagan School student hugs candidate Peter Cabrera after learning of his victory against Bettina Rodríguez-Aguilera for Doral City Councilwoman, at Braseros Restaurant in the Town of Doral, Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

A Ronald Reagan School student hugs candidate Peter Cabrera after learning of his victory against Bettina Rodríguez-Aguilera for Doral City Councilwoman, at Braseros Restaurant in the Town of Doral, Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

At the April 12 council meeting, attorney Glenn E. Thomas of the law firm Lewis, Longman and Walker, who was hired to prepare a report on the legality of the pension, said the plan provided Retroactive benefits for former elected officials who left office before the elected officials’ plan was implemented, which is prohibited by Florida statutes.

Thomas told the council that public employees or officials are not entitled to compensation that was not part of their terms of employment at the time.

The plaintiffs respond

Ruiz, a three-term city councilor until 2016, told the Nuevo Herald that Fraga’s sending a letter to the plaintiffs was “beyond the norm” in the context of the ongoing litigation.

Ruiz and DiPietro were not part of the Doral government when the pension plan was approved. Ruiz received pension plan benefits for at least one year until his termination. Although she told the Herald she didn’t remember the exact amount she received, the political news site Florida Politics reported it was $3,700 a month.

Sandra Ruiz, former Doral mayoral candidate and former city councilorSandra Ruiz, former Doral mayoral candidate and former city councilor

Sandra Ruiz, former Doral mayoral candidate and former city councilor

Fraga “should respect the democratic process,” Ruiz said. “We have the right to seek necessary resources if we believe our rights have been violated. »

Bermúdez, who is an attorney and currently represents Doral as a county commissioner, declined to comment.

Cabrera, a council member until 2021 and a candidate for Doral mayor in 2022, sent a written statement to the Nuevo Herald stating that sending a letter on official city letterhead without the City Council’s approval was “unethical and possibly crossed a legal line.”

“Due to the ongoing trial, I cannot make any further comments, except that in due time the full truth will be known and I hope this will put an end to this political rhetoric.”

The letter is dated May 8, the same day as the council meeting where changes to regulations on the sale of alcoholic beverages were approved following the Martini Bar shooting. However, the mayor did not address this subject during the city’s public meeting.

“This letter is a publicity stunt; she’s campaigning for re-election,” Ruiz said. “She already held a press conference to discuss it, and now she is sending letters that no one has received. It’s a political circus.

Fraga disagrees. “Nothing to defend the rights that contribute to the quality of life of Doral residents should be considered politics, it is not politics, I have had a commitment from the beginning, no dollars should be used for the benefit of a group.”

Fraga is one of the elected officials likely to benefit from the pensions she opposes. “We have 401(k) plans, insurance and salaries. Why shouldn’t we run the city like it’s our own business?

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