With a $735,000 annual salary for his private consulting firm, plus city-funded health insurance, office space, and a staff at City Hall, Pembroke Pines City Manager Charlie Dodge has one of the sweetest gigs in local government.
But here's the icing on the cake: He also collects a city-funded pension. For a public official who recently laid off more than 80 city employees in the name of reducing health care and pension costs, it's quite a double-dipping deal.
Here's how it went down: In October 2002, Dodge
enrolled in the city's Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), a system
that allows public employees to begin getting a pension for five years
while they are still working and collecting a salary. The pension
payments are put into an interest-earning account during the five
years, and only paid to the employees when they actually retire.
Depending on who you ask, this plan is either designed to retain experienced employees -- by essentially paying them twice -- or provide an incentive for higher-priced staffers to leave at an appointed time. When their five years are up, they are required to retire.
But Dodge didn't have to worry about all that. When he enrolled in the DROP, he was earning a base salary (excluding benefits and expenses) of $164,330 a year, and had been employed by the city since the '70s. If he had indeed retired, one would hope he would have been able to live comfortably on his pension.
Instead, four months after he joined DROP, Dodge convinced the City Commission to make him a private contractor instead of a full-time employee. His company, Charles Dodge LLC, was composed of Dodge and his deputy, Martin Gayeski. Together they earned $669,000 in their first year of privatization, and that amount has since increased to $735,000.
According to Daniel Rotstein, Pines' human resources director, Dodge's employment with the city officially ended when he became a private contractor in 2003. But of course, Dodge never actually retired. He's still earning a hefty salary, while collecting his pension payments.
How much are those pension checks? Well, that's a bit of a mystery. Rotstein says he has no documentation of how much Dodge receives, because the checks are cut by a private company. Hundreds of pages in Dodge's city personnel file offer no clues, either. And Dodge has not responded to the Juice's repeated requests for comment.
It's safe to say, though, that Dodge is doing a lot better than the 84 city employees he laid off in the past year.