Miami Springs police officers were out in full force at Monday’s regular city council meeting and they were none too happy with the status of their contract with the City of Miami Springs. An impasse in contract negotiations had been declared by the city and the police officers would be forced to continue to do their jobs without a contract, a situation now going on five years.
There was nothing on Monday’s agenda related to the impasse or what’s next in trying to get the two sides together. The police officers in the PBA union chose to show their support in numbers and have four members speak in the Open Forum segment at the beginning of the meeting.
In this manner, the council could not respond to any of the allegations made by the officers, nor could they ask questions. Mayor Zavier Garcia and his council took the shots coming their way in silence, as the chosen four officers stepped up to the podium.
Officer Jan Simon, a 15-year officer with the MSPD, was first and among her words were: “You are asking us to pay more for less and putting a Band-Aid on the problem will not solve it. Extending the years of service for our pension is not morally or ethically right. You would rather spend money on the failing golf course, the Pelican Playhouse, and the tennis courts than your own police department.”
Second up was Officer George Capote, who said: “You keep relying on the ‘Golden Egg’ (the pension cost-sharing agreement that was signed in 1993) and that means we continue to pay a higher percentage each year into our pensions and get fewer benefits. Give us a ‘fixed benefit’ and we will agree. If not, you will end up with not qualified officers, ones that will come on board just so they can have a badge and a gun.”
The PBA union rep in the MSPD, Sgt. Jimmy Deal, was next and did not mince his words when he said: “I now contribute $12,000 a year to my pension and we need to put a cap on it. The only winner here is your labor attorney and I can’t believe how much of the taxpayers’ money and ours you have spent on that. Make the new pension system for ‘new hires’ and leave us alone. And don’t tell us how much you appreciate us; show us because your words mean nothing.”
The final speaker was longtime MSPD officer, Sgt. Claire Gurney, who said: “You treat police as second-class citizens. It is outrageous that we will be paying almost one-third of our pay into the pension system starting in October of this year.”
According to City Manager Ron Gorland, the two sides will now go before a general magistrate, who will hold a hearing and make recommendations as to how the city and their police department can come to contract terms.
••••The most important business part of the agenda was the official hiring of new city clerk Erika Gonzalez-Santamaria and it came down to one reluctant “yes” vote to make it happen. Gonzalez-Santamaria had been offered the job immediately at a salary of $71,780, the lowest pay range for the position.
Gonzalez Santamaria currently is making $73,000 as the city clerk at Southwest Ranches and was due a pay raise in May. Also, she had a clause in her contract that required a 60-day notice before leaving for another job. She countered the city’s offer by saying she would accept a salary of $75,000 with a start date of April 1.
Thus, the council needed to approve her counter offer or take away the job offer. Councilman Michael Windrem motioned to approve the amended salary and April 1 start date and was seconded for discussion by Councilman George Lob.
Lob then asked Gonzalez-Santamaria, who was now standing at the podium, if she would accept a salary of $73,000. Showing her resolve and knowing that the odds were favorable for three votes to approve, she said, “ I ask that you take the vote.”
Windrem immediately gave his approval and Vice Mayor Billy Bain, against hiring her from the beginning, said “no.” When Lob joined Bain, it would be up to Councilman Jaime Petralanda and Mayor Garcia, who had already clearly stated he was in favor of the hire, to make the decision.
The 15 seconds of silence from Petralanda must have felt like 15 minutes to Gonzalez-Santamaria, but a sigh of relief came when the low-pitched “yes” came from his lips. Garcia quickly made it 3-2 and Miami Springs officially has a new city clerk starting April 1.
After the meeting, Gonzalez-Santamaria expressed her joy by saying, “I am so excited to start this job. I look forward to working with everyone and am counting the days until I start. I look forward to meeting the residents and working for them.”
In other news, the council:
• Proclaimed Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 as Skyler Odin Day for the young Miami Springs resident who was named Princess of the Junior Orange Bowl Court, the Do The Right Thing Student of the Year, and a medalist at the Junior Olympics swimming competition.
• Approved by a 3-2 vote (Bain and Petralanda dissenting) engaging the company Siegried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Toree, Mars & Sobel to deal with the construction defects at the Curtiss Mansion.
• Directed by consensus the city staff to look into the possibility of developing an ordinance to legalize the use of golf carts on city streets.
• Approved two resolutions unanimously, changing the schedule of charges for Building Permit fees in one and the schedule of fees at the Miami Springs Golf course in the other.
• Set the dates of Feb. 5 and Feb. 12 for Special Meetings (7 p.m. in council chambers) to hear 30-minute presentations from the top five firms from the RFQ for a consultant on the city’s aquatic facility (pool).