PENSACOLA, FL – Pensacola Police Department Chief David Alexander III will be forced into retirement in May, unless Mayor Ashton Hayward and the Pensacola City Council move to keep him in office.
Alexander has said he would like to remain police chief, despite having signed a contract that stipulates his departure in May, coinciding with the end of a retirement program.
Alexander’s 2015 contract states, “In no event shall employee have any expectation of continued employment in any capacity, including the use of any accrued leave or other benefit, with the City beyond May 14, 2017.”
The contract was based upon Alexander’s participation in the Deferred Retirement Option Program, a five-year retirement option that allows public employees to receive a lump sum payment when they retire. In most cases, employees are not able to continue working with their employer beyond their DROP date.
Alexander entered into DROP in 2012 while still a captain, with the anticipation he would retire this year. Alexander told the Pensacola City Council last week that he understood at the time that he was effectively setting a retirement date, not imagining he would go on to become the city’s first black police chief in 2015.
“Back in 2012, I entered into the DROP program based on the information I had at that time,” Alexander said. “Now had I known that I would be considered for the position of chief of police that might have changed my decision to go into the DROP program, but I was not aware of anything official that would make that something I should consider, and neither was I told that.
“Nevertheless I went into the DROP, so when I eventually was offered the position of chief of police and given a contract, yes I understood exactly what it meant and also understood that the contract would go in conjunction with the end of my DROP.”
Asked by councilman Larry Johnson what his plans beyond May are, Alexander indicated he hopes to stay on at the police department.
“I would like to be able to continue what we have begun with the city,” Alexander said. “I believe we’ve made a lot of accomplishments since I’ve been in the office and there’s been a lot of concern from the public as to whether I’d be willing to stay and the answer is yes I would be.”
Some city employees have remained with the city beyond their DROP dates. Former city attorney Rusty Wells’ DROP date passed in 2009, but Wells continues to work as special assistant to the city administrator.
The city’s DROP ordinances state that an employee can continue to work for the city beyond their DROP date subject to approval of the mayor, and as provided in a contract. It was such a contract that has allowed Wells to stay on with the city beyond his DROP date.
City spokesman Vernon Stewart pointed out, however, that fire and police personnel are subject to different rules and not allowed to work beyond their DROP dates.
It’s possible that the Pensacola City Council could change the city’s ordinances to allow Alexander to remain past his DROP date, but the change would have to be approved by the police union.
Mayor Hayward is out of town this week and did not answer calls to his cell phone. City administrator Eric Olson declined to comment. Hayward said in a radio interview on NewsRadio 1620 last week that the DROP issue was bigger than any one employee.
“Pension reform is one of the things I ran on seven years ago, talking about how cities across the country and around the world for that matter are really focusing in on pension reform and we’ve done an incredible job in the last seven years to look at that,” Hayward said. “That’s the most important thing for me. This is far bigger than one person.”
Referring to Alexander’s employment beyond his DROP date, Hayward said, “The bottom line is we haven’t had any plans to extend that.”
Alexander’s most likely replacement as chief would be assistant chief Tommi Lyter.