TAMPA — Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor has a mandatory retirement date approaching May 6, but Castor and city officials are mum about her plans.
Castor is in the city's deferred retirement option plan, which allows her to continue working while drawing her pension. But the program is limited to five years or 30 years of service, whichever comes first.
Castor had 30 years with the Police Department as of February and she's scheduled to leave the DROP program May 6. Once she is finished with the deferred retirement plan, she must retire.
Still, that doesn't mean Mayor Bob Buckhorn couldn't hire Castor back as a contract employee. City Councilman Charlie Miranda mentioned just such a scenario Thursday when he spoke to the chief at a council meeting.
“I said, 'I understand you're in the DROP program,” Miranda recalled Friday. “I think very highly of you and if you were to retire and the administration was to put you on a contract basis, I would support that.”
Despite repeated requests for comment, Buckhorn declined to discuss the matter this week.
“It's his decision and his appointment,” said Ali Glisson, the mayor's spokeswoman. “ ... the mayor will discuss the topic when he is ready to discuss it.”
Castor did not return a phone call seeking comment. Her current salary is $156,062.
Amy Mercer, executive director of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, said hiring back a chief as a contract employee isn't without precedent.
“I do believe I've heard of it, but I cannot tell you where or who it was,” Mercer said.
Mark Bogush, plan chairman of the city's Pension Fund for Firefighters and Police, said rehiring Castor after she retired would be roughly similar to when former Mayor Pam Iorio hired Stephen Hogue as chief in September 2003.
Hogue had spent 23 years with the Tampa Police Department before retiring and taking a job as chief of the Fort Walton Beach Police Department. Iorio hired Hogue back as chief in September 2009.
Hogue entered the Deferred Retirement Option Program on Aug. 12, 2007 and he had to retire by April 23, 2010. Hogue chose to leave earlier on Sept. 25, 2009.
The DROP program is available to state and county workers in the Florida Retirement System and to city workers through local pension plans. Some say the plan was instituted as a way to keep skilled employees working past their retirement date. Others say lawmakers designed DROP to get rid of dead wood by putting over-the-hill employees on a five-year plane to retirement.
The program came under criticism locally in 2009 when Bob Hunter, executive director of the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission, retired through the DROP program then was rehired by the commission about two months later.
When he retired at the end of 2008, Hunter received a one-time payment of $206,731 from DROP — the sum of retirement payments placed in an account to gather interest while he drew his salary. Hunter was rehired March 13 at an annual salary of $129,000.
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