The Clearwater City Council may allow retired police and fire department employees to continue collecting retirement benefits if rehired as chief. The change is being considered as city manager Jennifer Poirrier explores candidates for police chief, including a deputy chief who retired from the agency in 2022.
Poirrier said the policy change is being proposed to put the city “in the best possible light” for recruitment. Poirrier said she is not proposing the policy change “with anyone in mind.” But she confirmed former deputy chief Eric Gandy is a candidate for police chief.
In order for Gandy to become chief, the policy change would need to be enacted because he retired from the police department last year and is collecting retirement benefits while he works his new job as the city’s Marine and Aviation director.
If fire or police department employees retire from their agency, they cannot collect benefits during their employment if rehired to the police or fire department. The proposed ordinance would make an exception for police and fire chiefs.
Gandy had been with the Clearwater Police Department since 1991. He was promoted from patrol major to deputy chief in 2017. He retired as deputy chief in February 2022. He began work as the city’s Marine and Aviation department director in March 2022.
Gandy said he is “very interested” in the police chief job.
“I’m in a great position either way,” he said. “I really enjoy what I’m doing now and I really had a passion for what I did there.”
Gandy said the results of the ordinance vote would factor into his decision should he be offered the role of police chief, noting that he’s currently collecting a director salary and retirement benefits.
“Philosophically and financially, it doesn’t make any sense to give that up, just to become another director,” he said.
Slaughter, who served as police chief for nine years, left the agency in May after 31 years to become Clearwater’s assistant city manager. As police chief, Slaughter had an annual salary of $171,791. Deputy Chief Michael Walek was selected to lead the agency while Poirrier searched for a new police chief.
City Attorney David Margolis presented the proposed ordinance at a city council work session Monday. He said IRS rules have changed over the years to allow government employees to continue receiving retirement benefits even after returning to an agency.
“It’s actually revenue neutral for the city,” Margolis said. “Because the reality is, if you have someone who’s retired from our police department or fire department, you’re going to pay them their retirement benefits no matter what. ... Conversely, you’re going to have to pay a police chief or a fire chief no matter what.”
City council will vote on the ordinance Thursday.
Clearwater is not the first city in recent months to seek out a new police chief. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced last week that she had chosen interim police chief Lee Bercaw as the agency’s permanent leader, calling off a nationwide search. Bercaw, who lives in Pasco County, will have to relocate to meet the city’s requirements that a police chief live in the city.
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Times staff writer Tracey McManus contributed to this story.