Pembroke Pines firefighters fight back about double-dipping

Retired fire chief pulling in more than $300,000 annually with salary plus pension

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. - The practice of double-dipping - public employees retiring to start collecting a pension only to be immediately hired back with a new salary - has taken center stage in Pembroke Pines.

The city fire department's rank and file is demanding that the practice among top brass - including Chief John Picarello and Division Chief Al Diliello - be abolished because they claim it's holding up promotions and hurting their pension plan.

"We're unanimously and adamantly opposed to it," fire union pesident Sammy Brown said. "If they don't leave now, people can't get promoted into those positions, new people can't get hired, so you're affecting jobs and promotions."

"There is no guarantee for promotions in my administrative staff," Picarello told Local 10. "I can hire anyone in my administrative staff."

The pension board hired Miami attorney Robert Friedman to look into Piccarello's own case of double-dipping. The chief retired in 2008 at the age of 46, began collecting a $136,000 pension and was immediately hired back. Combined with his $175,000 salary, Picarello is now pulling in $311,000.

Friedman determined that the city's practice of double-dipping is in violation of Internal Revenue Service rules because there was no policy in place to allow it and that Picarello shouldn't have been allowed to obtain the pension before the age of 50. Friedman said for those reasons Picarello should pay back the pension money he's collected so far - more than half a million dollars at this point.

The city responded by voting to approve a retroactive double-dipping policy at the last commission meeting in hopes of preempting any action by the IRS.

Local 10's Bob Norman was at that meeting. Watch the video above to see his report, which includes a revealing interview with Picarello.

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