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11-page explanation for rehiring of city worker flunks math tests

(Week of March 17, 2011)

Two weeks ago, we reported that the City of Vero Beach Electric Utility almost immediately hired back a retired employee through a professional leasing firm—and that there was “no ready explanation” for why this had occurred, nor why the city was now paying more than $20 per hour more for the services of this employee than his former hourly rate.

An explanation -- all 11-pages of it -- finally has emerged.  While it claims savings, the math shows otherwise.

The condensed version is that David Pearson retired in May 2008 and was replaced. His replacement subsequently was promoted, leaving the position open again. Regulators NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation) did a “readiness evaluation” and recommended the city have a backup Electric System Programmer. Instead of hiring a new employee, the city hired Pearson back.

“The Human Resources Department recommended that it would be in the best interest of the City to hire him back through a temporary service provider,” the report states.

The city didn’t attempt to fill the open position and end the expensive temporary arrangement for nearly two years. Other staffers were shuffled around and a management position in the department is still open.

Since October, Pearson has been training two other employees to work with the utility’s newly upgraded computer system. All that should be completed at the end of this month.

Staff calculates the amount spent on all of this, exclusive of benefits, to be $298,567.

“The difference between the actual cost and the cost if Mr. Pearson had not retired is $42,584.05” ($298,567.95 instead of $341,152).

The problem with this explanation is that Pearson had retired – and then been rehired through the leasing firm -- seven months before NERC handed down its recommendation. An “F” for math test No. 1.

The staff’s calculation of costs also does not factor in the $3,091 per month Pearson has been receiving in pension checks for the nearly three years since he retired. Just counting the 27 months he was back on the job, that additional cost would be $83,457 – nearly twice the supposed “savings” cited by the city.  An “F” for math test No. 2.

The job was advertised for $20.53 per hour, so using the city’s “actual” numbers of $150,215 paid to Robert Half Technology, hiring a qualified person who wasn’t already retired from the city to work 40 hours every week for 27 months would have cost about $139,000.

That would be about $11,000 less than was paid the temp firm for 1,400 fewer man hours because Pearson, though he worked one solid year of the 27 months at 40 hours per week, worked an irregular schedule the rest of the time and sometimes took a week off around the holidays.