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Cypen & Cypen
NEWSLETTER
for
FEBRUARY 10, 2005

Stephen H. Cypen, Esq., Editor

Never Forget - September 11, 2001

1. COUNTY HAS RESPONSIBILITY TO DETERMINE IF EDUCATIONAL EXPENSES OF VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS SERVE PUBLIC PURPOSE:

A board of county commissioners recently asked the Florida Attorney General if county funds could be used to pay for educational courses for volunteer firefighters to obtain state certification as emergency medical technicians or paramedics. The county uses the services of volunteer firefighters who are not county employees, serve without compensation and have no obligation to continue providing services to the county. The county provides basic volunteer firefighter education and instruction (160 hours, including emergency medical service, first responder and hazardous materials awareness) to these individuals. The state certification as to emergency medical technician or paramedic is not a requirement for performing volunteer firefighting. Current hiring practice for EMTs requires individuals to obtain state certification at their own expense within 24 months of their date of employment. The county asked whether it may pay for EMT or paramedic training for volunteer firefighters, even though there is no assurance that they will continue to provide volunteer services after certification. The Attorney General nicely sidestepped the issue: ultimately, the county commission is responsible for making appropriate findings that an expenditure serves a public purpose and appropriately budgeting the funds. Such legislative functions and determinations cannot be delegated to the Attorney General, and the Attorney General may not undertake to make such legislative findings and determinations on behalf of the county. (He did say that one factor to be considered is whether volunteers would be obligated for some period of time to continue their service if county funds were used to pay their tuition.) AGO 2005-02 (January 27, 2005).

2. “HEALTH” OF PRIVATE PLANS IMPROVES:

Measured by funded status, the health of many large U.S. corporate pension plans improved significantly in 2003, according to the 2004 Fidelity Investments/PLANSPONSOR study of defined benefit plan practices. Among 100 larger defined benefit plans surveyed, only 54% of corporate plans were underfunded compared with 69% in 2002. Only 8% were underfunded by more than 20% compared with 12% the previous year. The public plans were not as fortunate: only about 25% were fully funded on ABO basis in 2003, versus 52% in 2002. Curiously, funded status, largely dependent on factors outside a plan sponsor’s direct control, is not of paramount importance in evaluating performance of a pension plan. Rather, return on assets dominated respondent criteria, cited by more than two-thirds of corporate plans and by more than three-quarters of public fund respondents. Peer rank was a distant second, but still outpaced funding ratio.

3. LAWYER-JOKESTERS BEAT THE RAP:

As predicted, two men arrested for telling lawyer jokes outside a courthouse got the last laugh when a grand jury dismissed disorderly conduct charges against them. (See C&C Newsletter for January 20, 2005, Item 6.) One man testified that he was just exercising his First Amendment right when he shared a few lawyer jokes with his friend. Both men are founders of Americans for Legal Reform, a group that uses confrontational tactics to urge greater public access to the courts. They say they have mocked lawyers outside courts for years, according to the Associated Press. Hmm...didn’t the legal system work?


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Items in this Newsletter may be excerpts or summaries of original or secondary source material, and may have been reorganized for clarity and brevity. This Newsletter is general in nature and is not intended to provide specific legal or other advice.


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