After 10 years as mayor of Sweetwater, Manuel “Manny” Maroño had accumulated $316,000 in pension benefits, through a generous retirement package, although he has not contributed one cent.
Maroño tried to cash in on those benefits two weeks before he pleaded guilty to federal public corruption charges in November.
He sent an envoy to the Elected Officials Pension Board with a proposal: to roll all of the money in his pension account into a private Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
His proposal was rejected.
“So many things have happened lately that I just wanted to be completely sure that every decision we are making is totally legal,” said Commissioner José Bergouignan, who heads the pension board. “We have never gone through a similar situation before.”
City Attorney Ralph Ventura initially considered handing over the money to Maroño, even if the action could later lead to a lawsuit against the former mayor to recover it — since municipal regulations did not specifically address the issue of what to do with benefits when elected officials are suspended.
But a consultation with the Florida Attorney General’s Office cleared up any ambiguities.