Tuesday, April 24, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa City Council approves deal to keep Jane Castor as police chief

TAMPA — The City Council approved a one-year agreement Thursday to keep Jane Castor on as police chief after her mandatory retirement next week.

Castor, 54, had been scheduled to leave the chief's job Tuesday through her participation in the city's Deferred Retirement Option Program. DROP sets a non-negotiable retirement day in exchange for allowing participants to bank some pension benefits before they stop working.

But in March, Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced he had persuaded Castor to stay on as a contract employee for another year beyond her retirement. That will ensure she would lead the Police Department through the end of his first term next March.

Under the agreement, Castor will be paid $165,426, a 6 percent increase from her current $156,062. As a contract employee, she will receive all the benefits other city employees get, except for a pension contribution.

After retiring, Castor also will receive a monthly pension check of about $9,433. The payout is expected to rise each January with the cost of living, typically 1 to 3 percent.

The city's pension fund has paid those pension benefits since Castor entered DROP, though the money has gone straight into an investment account. She can access that money in December.

At her retirement, the account is expected to stand at about $589,000, though officials say its value could fluctuate with the market before she's allowed to make any withdrawals.

Additionally, Castor is expected to receive about $140,000 in unused sick and vacation time.

Buckhorn has said he wants Castor as chief as long as he is mayor and hopes to talk Castor into staying on beyond the one extra year. She has promised that's not going to happen, saying "31 (years) will be enough."

Still, the agreement opens the door to her staying if she has a change of heart. Though either side can terminate the agreement at any time, after May 2015 it will automatically be renewed, one year at a time, for up to four more years. That would go through the end of a second Buckhorn term.

If Castor stuck around, each renewal would come with a 2 percent raise, assuming the city had available funds.

Cracking down on off-campus house parties

At council member Frank Reddick's request, the council asked city attorneys, police and zoning officials to study the possibility of copying a Winter Park ordinance that targets boisterous house parties.

For nearly two years, parties at homes rented by University of Tampa students have plagued residents of West Riverfront and North Hyde Park with big crowds, thundering late-night music, long lines of taxicabs, litter and public urination.

Tampa police and university administrators have worked to head off problems and discipline students who host out-of-control parties that take place off-campus, but the problem persists. Reddick said another such party last week drew 300 to 400 people to a house on W Arch Street.

The Winter Park ordinance defines an "illegal open house party" as a gathering of three or more people unrelated by blood or marriage in a home that either generates a noise disturbance complaint or is the scene of under-aged drinking or illegal drug use. A first violation results in a written notice to the property owner, and subsequent violations carry civil fines that start at $1,000 and go up another $1,000 with each subsequent violation.

The report is scheduled for June 5. Chairman Charlie Miranda said the problem is not isolated to neighborhoods around UT.

"It's throughout the city," he said. "Enough is enough."

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