I promised yesterday a little added value for Saturday readers and here it is.
The state Department of Finance and Administration has compiled a list of all state employees who have taken advantage of the state law that allows them to retire from their jobs and, after meeting the required minimum time off work, seek to be rehired so they can claim two checks at once.
More than 300 state employees have done so. The chart at this link organizes those employees by department, by pay before retirement, by pay after retirement, their retirement date and their rehire date.
Some points: This does not include the hundreds of public school teachers who’ve participated in similar deferred retirement option programs. It does include some people who didn’t retire simply to very quickly come back to work with two paychecks. Department of Finance and Administration Director Richard Weiss left government for the private sector, but later returned, for example. Also, there are some non-participating agencies and the computer records wouldn’t catch anyone who retired before 2001 and then came back to work subsequently.
Finally, this is perfectly legal and anticipated by the statute that was nominally aimed at retaining valuable veteran employees and their presumed superior knowledge of their jobs. Some savings accrue from the end of retirement contributions by the state, but of course new employees would be hired for many of these jobs at much lower pay levels. I can tell you, too, that younger employees (some even with good ideas) are stymied by the pay plan that gives older workers a good reason to hang around for dramatically enhanced take-home.
It’s a good public policy debate, still. But it should not be confused with the low-down county officials who’ve run the scam by which they fake retired to double-dip. Rep. Allen Kerr is on the trail of perhaps more than 100 who never actually left work and never legally vacated their offices as the law requires, but merely suspended pay for three months and then returned to work at full pay plus retirement. For elected officials, it’s an even sweeter double-dip because they can double-count their years of service. That means their retirement pay might equal their regular pay.
The state Public Employees Retirement System refuses to release retirement amounts paid public employees so I currently can’t obtain those figures to match up with today’s list. The list spans employees from the bottom to the very top of state pay, including heads of several state agencies. No, of course there weren’t open application processes for potential successors when most of these people “retired.”
I am curious about Parole Board member Leroy Brownlee’s appearance on the list. Can you “retire” from the Parole Board, a gubernatorially appointed body, and then be rehired for purposes of getting a retirement check as well as $88,000 regular pay? The chart shows Brownlee “retired” in March 2008 and was “rehired” six weeks later. Perhaps the governor’s office can offer some insight.
UPDATE. The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record today published a worthy editorial summarizing the double dipping by elected officials the newspaper uncovered in Garland County. One thing not raised so far in that controversy is whether these faux-retired officials kept their public insurance plans running during their “retirement.” Or did they go on COBRA as the great unwashed must do?
A news article in the paper also quoted Sen. Steve Faris as raising still stronger objections to these actions and questions the legality of retirement benefits extended to the Garland County officials.
“I think the intent and the spirit in which this law was passed has obviously been circumvented,” Steve Faris, D-District 27, of Malvern, said Friday