Miami Mayor Regalado vetoes “double dipping” for retirees in 4 top city posts

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado penned his first veto in almost four years Friday, rejecting a commission decision to allow retired employees tapped for four of the city’s highest-paying posts to collect a paycheck and a pension at the same time — if they return to work after retiring.

In a one-paragraph statement, Regalado said Thursday’s 3-2 commission vote was “flawed and unfair” to the city’s rank-and-file employees.

“It sets bad public policy in its narrow application,” the mayor wrote.

Commissioners on Thursday voted to allow city employees who retire and come back to collect a paycheck and their pension at the same time, if they land one of four high-paying constitutional positions: city manager, auditor general, city clerk and city attorney.

Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff, who proffered the bill, and Commissioners Michelle Spence-Jones and Wifredo “Willy” Gort, voted in favor. Commissioners Francis Suarez and Frank Carollo voted against.

Some critics speculated the bill was crafted for a pair of outgoing senior assistant city attorneys who are set to retire at the same time as City Attorney Julie Bru at the end of September. Under the new law, if either Assistant City Attorney Maria Chiaro or Warren Bittner got Bru’s job, their yearly compensation would exceed $350,000.

Sarnoff denied the bill was crafted for any one individual. He said it was necessary because the city needs experienced personnel in the four positions at issue.Several residents and the city’s fire and police unions spoke out against the change.

Regalado, who had 10 days to issue the veto, said he’s against the new law because the same benefit is not offered to the city’s rank-and-file. He also said it runs counter to a policy he agrees with, set by City Manager Johnny Martinez.

“The manager’s philosophy is that once an employee is retired, they can’t come back and work for the city,” the mayor said.

The four constitutional officers are hired by the commission, not the manager.

To override Regalado’s veto, the commission must take it up within 10 days or at its next scheduled meeting. A four-fifths vote is needed to override the mayor’s decision.

The new pension law wasn’t what Regalado was expected to veto.

The mayor had said earlier that he would veto any redistricting plan that breaks up the city’s Upper Eastside. Commissioners did just that Thursday, voting to move a large chunk of Sarnoff’s district — everything north of Northeast 61st Street — into Spence-Jones’s district.

Several homeowner associations in the Upper Eastside had argued they didn’t care what district they were in as long as the neighborhood remained in one piece.

But a 4-1 vote, with only Carollo voting no and enough votes to override a veto, put a dent in Regalado’s plan. The mayor said he’s still considering a veto, and he will decide before the June 3 deadline.