Naples fire chief Pete DiMaria to receive his pension and salary
Naples Fire Chief Pete DiMaria said on Monday he would not retire after city council voted 5-2 in favor of an ordinance that will allow him to collect pension benefits while earning a salary as a fire chief.
DiMaria had said he would retire on September 30 after city council did not initially approve the ordinance last month.
Councilors Ted Blankenship, Ray Christman, Paul Perry, Gary Price and Mayor Teresa Heitmann voted to approve the ordinance, while Deputy Mayor Terry Hutchison and Councilor Mike McCabe voted against.
“I am delighted to continue to serve our community,” said DiMaria.
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The ordinance also requires all firefighters to contribute to their retirement trust fund, including retired firefighters who return to work and must contribute as new members of the trust fund and earn a second benefit. The order allows DiMaria not to get a second retirement pension, and he will, he said.
City firefighters must contribute to their pension plan when employed to comply with state law, a lawyer representing the city on pensions said at a council meeting on September 9.
“If you are participating in Chapter 175, then every firefighter has to participate. The only exception is the chief (who) can step down,” said Glenn Thomas, attorney at Lewis, Longman and Walker.
McCabe said the order was not “prudent.”
“Public policy should not be used to solve individual or personal problems,” he said.
Hutchison said the new policy would have a “chilling effect” on other firefighters who might be on a career path to become fire chief, but the firefighters union agreed, a memorandum of understanding between the city and the union shows.
Blankenship said the order allows the city manager and fire chief to detain firefighters the city needs. He also said people like DiMaria can find jobs elsewhere while receiving retirement benefits from the city.
“If we don’t pass that, it’s kind of a reverse incentive to encourage people to leave who don’t want to leave,” he said.
On September 9, the city council voted 5-2 to approve the ordinance at first reading. Hutchison and McCabe voted against.
A week earlier, city council voted 4-3 against the ordinance, prompting DiMaria to announce his retirement in a letter to acting Souza. Heitmann, Hutchison, McCabe and Blankenship voted against.
In 1989, DiMaria was hired by the city and was promoted through the ranks, as a firefighter, engineer driver, lieutenant and battalion commander.
In 2019, DiMaria retired as a battalion commander, but six weeks later he was appointed fire chief on the condition that he could not collect pension benefits while employed by the fire department. as the fire chief, he said. When he retired, his monthly benefit was $ 8,780.
In 2021, DiMaria was earning an annual salary of nearly $ 160,000, plus an annual lump sum bonus of $ 3,000 and an annual allowance of $ 1,200 for her cell phone, among other benefits.
Souza said DiMaria had agreed to forgo his annual bonus, which was negotiated between DiMaria and former city manager Charles Chapman to make up for the monthly retirement benefits that DiMaria was no longer receiving.
DiMaria confirmed he would forgo the bonus and thanked city council for approving the ordinance.
“It allows me to continue to do the work that I love and to contribute to the community that I have served for 32 years,” he said.