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FAC says its farewells, maybe

By Staff | Mar 12, 2012

They weren’t sobbing on each other’s shoulders, but there were many sentiments of “thank you” and “it was an honor” doled out Monday morning at council chambers for what possibly was the final meeting of the Financial Review Committee.

One thing there weren’t much of were apologies or regrets in telling the city council what it thought was a dire strait in regard to the city’s financial burden in regards to pensions and other post-employment benefits (OPEB).

Many of the committee members took the time to thank each other for their hard work, though not without a parting shot in regards to the city council and its likely vote to disband the FAC in favor of a Budget Review Committee (BRC).

No one was more vocal than Sal Grosso, who said he didn’t want Cape Coral to become another Stockton, Calif., which went on the verge of bankruptcy after the housing boom and bust and out-of-control benefits for workers.

“Contrary to what others are saying, we’re looking out for the welfare of city workers,” Grosso said. “Our chairman should have been complimented, not castigated, for making a statement to the city council.”

Grosso also made what could have been inferred to as impropriety on the part of the city’s auditing firm over a letter that he said was edited to remove statements that said the city’s financial situation was deteriorating because of OPEB and the pension fund.

“It’s important to understand it’s saying that if the workers retire and they believe they’ll get health benefits, they may not get them because there’ll be no money,” Grosso said.

Committee member William “Scott” Morris disagreed with Grosso’s assertion, adding that chairman Don McKiernan’s presentation to the city council on Feb. 13, which led to the recommendation to disbandment, wasn’t authorized by the FAC.

“You’re insinuating a company gave in to public pressure and changed the letter,” Morris said. “The presentation was done without a vote from the FAC. It was not sanctioned as an actual FAC presentation. It was a lack of communication.”

District 5 Councilwoman Rana Erbrick also chimed in, saying the city has met its obligations, and cautioned that the FAC disbandment wasn’t a done deal.

“We haven’t made the mistakes Stockton, Calif. and Flint, Mich. have made. You’ve been crying wolf without providing solutions,” Erbrick said. “My interest is not to dissolve the committee, but to change members. We need more diversity”

Erbrick said she would vote against the FAC dissolution, but would vote for the BRC if brought forth in a motion.

“You can’t shoot the messenger,” Erbrick said.

As For McKiernan, he issued the only apology, all but conceding the FAC was about to become history.

“If this issue is causing the disbandment, I apologize. The past chairman said OPEB and the pension were our top problems,” McKiernan said. “People confuse the budget with the balance sheet. I think the new council has a new way of thinking and wants a different analysis. I can count the votes.”