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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sen. Alexander: DEP gave unauthorized bonuses

27

August

Sen. J.D. Alexander sent a letter to DEP Secretary Mike Sole inquiring about special bonuses Sole gave to employees in May.

Alexander said the Legislature didn't fund the bonuses and wanted to know why they were given. His letter suggests that 39 bonus payments were distributed to DEP's general counsel’s office for 24 attorneys and 15 support staff. He also questioned pay increases for 31 toll collector positions in the Recreation and Parks program.

Alexander is demanding the "statutory provisions" the agency "relied upon to justify these pay transactions.

UPDATE! DEP Sec. Mike Sole responds.

Sen. Alexander first raised such questions back in June, DEP reports. Sole said that the positions are toll collectors for Florida’s State Parks, who average $23,000 a year, and attorneys and support staff within the Office of the General Counsel.

He said the salary raises were given to toll collectors’ positions, because the jobs are being changed to better reflect their duties. He said the bonuses for staff attorneys, which averaged $2,000 each, were merit-based retention incentives to keep them from running to the private sector or other agencies.

“I take full responsibility for the situation and I have reiterated to my staff my extreme desire that we follow all procedures, rules and laws in carrying our responsibilities to the citizens of Florida. I am prepared to answer any further questions by Senator Alexander on this issue," Sole said.

Sen. Alexander's Letter

August 27, 2008


Mr. Michael W. Sole, Secretary
Department of Environmental Protection
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000

Dear Secretary Sole,

It is my understanding that the Department of Environmental Protection granted numerous special pay increases to employees during the last quarter of the 2007-08 fiscal year. While I appreciate the need to compensate individuals for outstanding job performance, it appears that these special pay increases are in conflict with Florida Statutes, and were not approved by the Florida legislature.

Section 216.181(10)(b), F.S., states that lump sum salary bonuses may be provided only if specifically appropriated. In addition, s. 216.251(3), F.S., provides that an agency may not authorize general salary increases or pay additives for a cohort of positions sharing the same job classification or job occupation which the Legislature has not authorized. The Fiscal Year 2007-2008 General Appropriations Act did not appropriate funds to the department for lump-sum salary bonuses within the General Counsel’s Office nor did it include language authorizing general salary increases for a cohort of the department’s positions.

A review of the department’s pay and personnel transactions indicates 39 bonus payments were issued May 2008 in the General Counsel’s Office for 24 attorneys and 15 support staff. In addition, 31 toll collector positions in the Recreation and Parks program were provided general salary increases.

Further, the department included a specific issue in its Fiscal Year 2008-2009 Legislative Budget Request to improve retention of the General Counsel’s legal staff. As this issue was not authorized, I request the department provide the statutory provisions it relied upon to justify these pay transactions. In addition, the department should anticipate a presentation before the appropriations committee as soon as legislative committees are organized.

I would appreciate your response as soon as possible.


Sincerely,

JD Alexander
Senator, District 17

Cc: Honorable Charlie Crist
Members of Florida Legislature

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:10am]

    

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