County administrator receives more retirement money and vacation time

Barry Burton

CLEARWATER — In less than a year, Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton has managed to get his total compensation package closer to the $302,100 he asked for before he was hired.

Pinellas County commissioners unanimously approved three amendments to his contract on Sept. 24.

During a June 20 work session, Pinellas County commissioners discussed the six-month evaluation for their new county administrator and his request for contract amendments.

At that time, most agreed they were pleased with Burton’s work thus far; however, none was prepared to approve contract changes requested by their newest employee.

Burton’s first day on the job was Oct. 29, 2018.

The consensus was to wait until closer to his one-year review and before final approval of the fiscal year 2020 budget to talk about Burton’s request for better benefits.

Burton had requested three amendments.

The first was to make the county administrator’s annual performance and salary review consistent with other exempt employees. Burton’s contract called for the administrator’s evaluation to come after six months and every 12 months thereafter.

Second was to amend his contract so he could earn leave the same as a 20-year exempt employee.

Burton’s initial contract gave him 208 hours of annual leave effective on his date of employment. He would then earn leave the same as other exempt employees with 10 years of service.

As part of his contract negotiations in August 2018, before he was hired, Burton had asked to be given benefits of a 20-year exempt employee; however, the commission turned him down.

Burton also wanted the county to contribute more to his 457 plan, which is tax advantaged deferred-compensation retirement plan. The initial contract called for a $15,000 a year contribution. Burton wanted to increase it to the maximum allowed by the Internal Revenue Service, which would be $24,000-$24,500 a year.

Burton’s compensation package was back on the table Sept. 24, during the afternoon portion of the meeting where final millage rates and budgets were scheduled to be approved that evening.

He is not due for his annual review until after Oct. 29.

Composite scores from commissioners for his six-month review, November 2018-April 2019, averaged 2.54 out of 3 for functional competencies and 2.57 for his work to implement the commission’s strategic plan.

Commissioner Dave Eggers began the discussion on Sept. 24 by saying that commissioners couldn’t turn down Burton’s requests for contract changes this time due to him being on the job less than a year. Eggers then praised Burton’s work, especially his added attention to unincorporated parts of the county.

“I agree it’s been a great year,” Commission Chair Karen Seel said.

Burton’s requests were then unanimously approved.

“I appreciate the vote of confidence,” Burton said. “It’s great to work with commissioners who work well together, work well with staff and know how to get things done.”

There was no mention of future pay raises. However, the administrator’s pay was discussed back in June, as some commissioners were concerned about paying him $300,000 or more.

When Burton was hired, he negotiated a salary with a base pay of $267,500, which was more than former administrator Mark Woodard was making ($252,241) when he retired.

Burton had asked for a base pay from Pinellas of $272,000 as part of his contract negotiations. His base pay at his former job had been $253,260. He served as county administrator for Lake County, Illinois, for 16 years.

Before the contract with Burton was approved on Sept. 5, 2018, commissioners unanimously approved increasing the maximum amount the county administrator and county attorney could receive.

Before, the salary range had been from $165,547 to $258,357. With the change, the new maximum is $275,017.60, or $132.22 an hour.

If Burton receives a 3% pay raise during his annual review, with the amended retirement allowance, his total compensation package, including his $7,200 car allowance, would be more than $300,000.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.