Holmes Beach Public Works Superintendent Joe Duennes — a top city official for more than 15 years — unexpectedly stepped down from his position last week.
“As of 4 p.m. today, he’s done working” said outgoing Mayor Rich Bohnenberger Nov. 16, adding that Duennes will be on “terminal leave until Feb. 17.”
Bohnenberger granted Duennes’ request that he be paid for time earned through Feb. 17, with Nov. 16 being his last day, he said.
Duennes retired in 2009 by electing to enter the Florida Retirement System Deferred Retirement Option Plan, a program that incentivizes public employee retirement.
Duennes was eligible to remain in the DROP program until Feb. 28, 2014.
The program allows public employees who qualify by number of years or age to retire, but stay on the job and collect a salary for up to five years. It also allows their monthly retirement benefits accumulate in a FRS trust fund, earning tax-deferred interest. They must leave by their last day in the program or lose their accumulated contributions.
Duennes headed the city’s public works, building and code enforcement departments — which average about 14 employees in all.
During the past year, the city’s building practices have been scrutinized by focus groups and others. Some residents and candidates in the Nov. 6 election rallied for stepped-up building code enforcement related to setbacks, pool regulations, stormwater plans and remodeling under the Federal Emergency Management Agency rules.
Bohnenberger said the criticism leveled at the building department was unjustified in light of it being recognized as one of the top city departments in the nation.
Yet, he understood Duennes might feel it’s “time to move on, especially when you consider all the nasty comments that have come out with the election,” Bohnenberger said.
Duennes departure is the latest in a number of recent changes in the department.
Holmes Beach resident David Greene, an electrical engineer, was added to the building department staff Oct. 23, and is in the process of acquiring his plans examiner license.
Building inspector Bob Shaffer was fired in September after being disciplined for “leniency to marginal and over the line practices by some contractors,” according to an April 20 memorandum in his personnel file.
Duennes’ predecessor and former Longboat Key building official John Fernandez was brought in as an independent contractor in July to handle FEMA issues and department overflow.
For 2012, as of Nov. 7, 1,009 building permits were issued, already 22 more than 2011, including 190 mechanical, 101 roof, 95 pool, 86 erosion control, 73 remodel, 72 electrical, 55 window and 20 demolition. It is over the 987 permit total for 2011.
As building official, Duennes was responsible for issuing building permits, certificates of occupancy and statements of zoning compliance, according to the city charter.