FORT PIERCE — Some city commissioners gave their $100 holiday bonuses back to taxpayers in a year when continued falling property values resulted in less revenue to the city.
Others planned to spend their bonuses in a charitable way during the holiday season.
Commissioner Eddie Becht was the only member of the City Commission who wasn’t written a bonus check, said Finance Director Gloria Johnson on Thursday. Johnson said Becht told her at the Dec. 19 meeting where the commission approved the bonuses for city employees for the second year in a row that he wouldn’t be taking his bonus.
Each city department absorbed the total cost of $35,100 for the bonuses.
Johnson also confirmed Commissioner Tom Perona returned his check to the city, but she hasn’t received it yet.
“When I found out that the commission was not contributing their bonuses as in the previous year,” wrote Perona via email, “I requested that my $100 be returned to the general fund.”
“(I) never intended to give myself a bonus,” he continued. “We can spend the money elsewhere to achieve a greater satisfaction.”
Last year, Becht suggested the mayor and commissioners donate their $500 in bonuses to help pay for the Avenue D Boys and Girls Choir’s trip to Gov. Rick Scott’s inauguration. Becht previously said he was uncomfortable voting to give himself a bonus.
Last week, Becht said he told Johnson before the vote he was giving back his bonus instead of pulling the issue from the consent agenda for discussion so he could show his support for giving the bonuses to employees.
“By handling it in this fashion,” wrote Becht via email, “my conscience is clear that I never voted to give myself a bonus with taxpayer money.”
Also, Johnson said City Attorney Robert Schwerer gave back his office’s total of four holiday bonuses, including his own.
Meanwhile, the other three members of the commission plan to donate their bonuses to help others.
Commissioner Rufus Alexander said he plans to use his bonus to help pay for a local mom to visit her son in prison in Pensacola.
“I’m going to donate it to what I think is a worthy cause,” he said.
Mayor Bob Benton said he already donated about half of his bonus to an organization that pays to fly World War II veterans to the war’s memorial in Washington, D.C.
“It was just a really good cause,” he said.
Commissioner Reggie Sessions said he also plans to donate his bonus to an organization, which he said probably would be MAD DADS, or Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder.
“To whom much is given, much is expected,” he said. “I appreciate any blessing that I have received.”