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Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield has yet to take board-approved pay cut

CLEARWATER — As hundreds of layoffs strafed the Pinellas County workforce last year, county commissioners voted to cut their own pay by 4 percent in a show of solidarity.

But Commissioner Neil Brickfield has not followed through with the voluntary cut. His reason: car trouble.

The first-term Republican voted for the reduction in May as part of a 6-1 majority. The decision reduced commissioners' $90,954 pay by $3,640 a year.

The board also voted to cut most of their individual assistants' pay by 4 percent, too.

That reduction included Brickfield's aide, Patrick Adamson, whose annual salary fell nearly $1,900 from $48,186 in 2009.

The commissioners' pay cuts had to be voluntary because their salaries are set by the Legislature. But nothing stops a county official from donating a portion of the salary back to the county or a charity as a voluntary measure.

Pinellas' other six commissioners began taking the cut by donating to the county or a charity between October and January, county and bank records show.

After the St. Petersburg Times asked to see records regarding the pay cuts, Brickfield said he planned to donate the value of the pay cut to charity before year's end. He said he might start with giving away a car he blamed for delaying his pay cut.

Brickfield, who informally opposed the cuts when they first came up at a county workshop, said he is underwater on the loan for his 2004 Cadillac DeVille. He said he owes $6,000 on it, but it's worth only $4,000 and has a faulty transmission.

Instead of fixing it, he decided to pay off the loan and buy a new car, forking over $3,000 for a 1991 Honda Accord with 122,000 miles.

"I wish my car didn't break. But it did. I wish I wasn't upside down on my car, but I am," said Brickfield, whose last financial disclosure report listed his net worth at $164,000.

"But correct me if I'm wrong, but we all agreed to do this by the end of the year."

Brickfield, 47, is a political consultant and former Safety Harbor commissioner who pledged to keep an eye on county spending.

"I think we need to work on having a government that we can afford, and I think we need a commissioner that will watch our spending, dollar by dollar," Brickfield told a crowd in a campaign event captured on YouTube.

County Attorney Jim Bennett, who endorsed the way in which commissioners decided to cut their pay, said nothing in the law or vote makes the cuts enforceable.

Commissioners Calvin Harris, John Morroni and Ken Welch opted to give their cuts to the county, paying $139 from each paycheck, payroll records show.

Welch started first in October, the start of the fiscal year, while Morroni and Harris began in January, the beginning of the tax year. Welch said giving money back to taxpayers was the "cleanest way" and the right thing to do. He didn't know Brickfield had not followed through.

"All I can control is my office. We just wanted to make sure we complied and did our part," Welch said. "I'm surprised we all didn't comply."

The others have given to non-profit groups.

Commissioners Susan Latvala ($3,550) and Karen Seel ($2,565) have made contributions to charities, providing itemized lists and bank records to the Times. Commissioner Nancy Bostock also provided bank records for $3,420 donations she has made.

Latvala, who voted against the cut because she had sought a deeper reduction, said she gave to charity because that was the initial option the commission discussed.

"We are giving back 4 percent of our salary in different ways — some to charity, some back to the county," Morroni told the public during a March budget meeting. "But we have — we have. We feel the pain."

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield has yet to take board-approved pay cut 04/09/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 9, 2010 11:45pm]
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