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TO GET PROMOTION, HE HAS TO RETIRE

A day later, he will be the fire chief.

Before acting fire Chief Rick Butcher can claim the title permanently, he must first retire.

The Tarpon Springs Fire Pension Plan does not allow participation for more than 30 years. Butcher has been with the Fire Department for 29 years.

Butcher will retire from the department July 6. The next day, he will be appointed fire chief. In Butcher's new contract, he forfeits the right to participate in the General Employees Pension Fund.

"He comes over as chief and gets no city retirement benefits," City Manager Mark LeCouris said. "So I get a chief with 29 years of experience who is well known throughout the state for emergency management, and I save a whole bunch of money for the taxpayer."

Butcher's salary was raised to about $97,500 when he was named acting chief. But since he will be considered a new hire as chief, his pay will be reduced 5 percent to $92,864.30.

Butcher declined to comment on his appointment, deferring to LeCouris.

The fire pension plan is separate from that of other city employees, LeCouris said. Fire employees contribute the majority of the money to the fund and the city adds a percentage of an employee's salary, typically between 6 and 9 percent, he said.

In his 29 years with Tarpon Springs Fire Department, the city contributed $128,395.81 to Butcher's pension. LeCouris noted that during the four years and three months that Stephen Moreno was the fire chief, $67,808.47 was contributed by the city.

Butcher, 51, was named acting fire chief in February after Moreno resigned. Moreno stepped down after an investigation determined that his behavior at a fire scene in January - when he arrived after having been drinking - warranted his termination.

In a special session Tuesday, the City Commission will vote to ratify the appointments of Butcher as fire chief and Bob Kochen as police chief.

Kochen, 44, has been serving as the acting chief since June 2008 when LeCouris left that post to become interim city manager. Kochen's salary also will be $92,864.30.

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