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Hillier finds it hard to believe that Veltri, a retired savings and loan executive, didn't know that the payments were improper. The councilman contends that the payoffs further show that, while Veltri was notoriously frugal with city money, he was quite liberal about filling his own pockets with it. The former mayor was also part of a secretive and much-derided move by the city council in 1987 to give the city's elected officials a lavish pension plan that pays Veltri $62,500 a year and provides him and his dependents free medical care for the rest of his life. The pension plan created controversy and was later abolished for future council members, but Veltri and seven others are still benefiting from it -- including current councilman Ralph Merritt, who didn't return a phone message left by New Times, and Armstrong.
When the council voted last year to have the pension plan independently investigated, Veltri vetoed the measure.
"How much more obscene can you get?" Edwards says. "Knowing all that, he writes himself a $20,000 check on his way out. That's some kind ofnerve."
Edwards says he blames the "strong mayor" form of government for the payments as much as he blames Veltri himself. He says it's not surprising that Veltri -- who for 24 years controlled all city departments and also wielded considerable power on various boards and committees throughout Broward County -- would take such liberties with the city's money. "At some point in Frank's political career, it got to the point that Frank got bigger than the City of Plantation," says Edwards.
Armstrong says she hasn't given up hope in trying to bail out Veltri and find clear legal justification for the compensation. "It could be that [authorization for the payments] is in place as part and parcel of another resolution we don't know about," she says. "It is a massivesearch."
It's not surprising that such extravagant efforts are being made to clear Veltri. Both Armstrong and Lunny are unlikely players in an investigation of the former mayor. Armstrong has been a political ally of Veltri's through the years, while Lunny owes Veltri, an old family friend, his job. It was Veltri who hired Lunny after Lunny's father retired from the post. But such close relationships didn't stop Armstrong from making the inquiry and Lunny from concluding that it appears the payments were illegal.
Hillier says he thinks that the continuing search of city records is only a waste of yet more of the city's money: "They'll never find anything that allows what Frank did," he says, "because it doesn't exist."
Contact Bob Norman at his e-mail address: Bob_Norman@newtimesbpb.com