Ohioans have no problem with elected officials retiring in order to collect their pension, but when they do this just in time to be re-elected, then they collect both the pension and a paycheck, well we do have a problem with that!
This question goes much deeper that what is “Legal” and drives right towards what I feel is basically an ethical question. If we really study the pension fund program in Ohio, and understand it’s intent, it is clearly a fund which was set up to allow workers employed in government jobs the ability to pay into their own retirement fund. At one time these folks did not have to pay into social security, and they could not collect from that fund either, but now they can since the Social Security Administration Laws have changed, some Local and State government employees have the option of paying into and receiving SSI and Medicare benefits. Once they reach a the point where they can collect their pension, and some who also receive SSI, there is an offset rule where the SSI funds are reduced proportionately based on the income amount of their pension fund.
According to Social Security Document some state and local government employees are covered by SSI and Medicare. Based on the “Section 218 Agreements” plus federal law passed in 1991, certain government employees can be covered by SSI and Medicare. Click here to see the SSI document # 05-10051.
Remember back when retiring from a job meant you collected a cardboard box full of 40 years worth of office detritus you had collected, you left your place of employment that one last time and you moved on with your life. You left the workforce in order to actually go off and do retirement things right? Imagine 30 years ago a retired person going back to the same job in the same place, only now he is making the same paycheck he was making plus a taking in a decent pension. That image is ludicrous to people who are struggling to make up a retirement plan after all that has happened in our financial world. There is nothing stopping people form retiring and then taking another job, however it has customarily been a job at another location, not taking back the same exact position!
The full process of “retiring” as a public official and being re-elected to the same job is covered in detail within the Ohio Revised Code documents from the Ohio Congress 123rd assembly 1999 – 2000. The actual ORC which contains the exact verbiage is ORC 145.38. To read the full document regarding the employment of a retirant, please follow this link: codes.ohio.gov/orc/145.38 If you follow this to it’s inception you will find that the ruling was created to help school teachers when they retire, but like many of our existing laws it was piggybacked and altered to meet the wants and needs of others.
Think about this, if all you had to do was file some papers by a certain deadline, and then your employer would have to first pay you the retirement money you are due, plus your employer would then have to re-hire you at the same salary you were making before you quit? Well folks this is all legal in Ohio for our public officials, even though the practice is frowned upon by many. In fact one of the most heinous criminals in local government who has been indicted buy the FBI for crimes he is accused of committing while in office is still receiving his pension and a paycheck! Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, and some of his cronies have been double dipping for years. In fact his performance is one of the bigger reasons Cuyahoga has recently moved to a City Administrator form of leadership, away from the old form of city government.
Double Dipping Dave! We have a local Court of Common Pleas Judge, Dave Fuhry, who decided to “retire” shortly before the elections this year, and strangely enough his name ended up on the ballot for the same exact job which he currently holds, the one that he just announced his retirement from. Interestingly he is doing this as a way to reap the rewards of his PERS pension, plus to make a paycheck at the same time. Hence the nickname that is currently circulating in Geauga County, “Double Dipping Dave.” Nothing against the Judge, he is fair and good at his job, but perhaps his motives appear to be spurious to those of us who are not doing quite as well.
To me this process would be like saying to your boss, “I quit now give me the severance package, but then in five days after I leave, please hire me back again at the same salary that I was making!” In the private sector this is never going to happen, so why would it be okay for our elected government officials?
This process is extraordinary in times like these where we are all cash strapped and living on pretty tight budgets, and here is a judge who wants to take advantage of a loophole in the system to reap stout financial rewards. There is no logical reason why we should allow this! Don’t get me wrong nobody is denying these folks their pensions, what stinks is they expect to get right back into the same high paying job as before the election! Some folks have said that it is just like if they took another job elsewhere, but it really is not exactly the same. For example where in the private sector is there a job acting as a judge? Perhaps on television, but last I checked the panel on dancing with the stars was full!
The feeling I have about this problem stems from an internal right and wrong sensor I have which usually points out things that seem unethical. There was a state law enacted which made it illegal to “double dip” and somehow this ban was later removed from our state laws without public knowledge, many of the politicians who voted for this removal claim they don’t remember doing it. The same lawmakers who removed this ban obviously stood to gain from it’s demise, and they are the same ones who get to vote on their own pay raises.
They can shuck and jive all they want about the source of the pension money, but the bottom line is that it still comes from you and me when we pay taxes! The sad fact remains that these people can essentially quit their job one week and then get re-elected into the same job the next. This is all done in order to collect a larger paycheck and that seems deeply questionable to me. Perhaps unethical is a strong word to apply here, but since you and I are not allowed to do it, then why can our elected officials get away with this?
I wish there was an easy explanation as to why our public officials should you have the opportunity to make such a large paycheck and then take a pension on top of that? Why not do the right and honorable thing, just retire and go away letting someone else have the job and the paycheck. Lastly do like the rest of us and try harder to live within your means. So what does this double dipping all come down to? Plain and simple greed folks, no sugar coating required. These elected officials have come to expect a plush lifestyle paid for with our tax dollars. I am not forgetting that they have paid into the pension fund, but they also receive excellent health benefits and paychecks that are easily 25% higher than what those in the private sector earn.
I have read some responses from those public officials who are dipping it good, and they tend to say things like well it is okay for a person on Social Security to get a job and keep their SSI benefits, but what they fail to mention is that these working retired people will have their SSI paycheck reduced $1 for every $2 earned if they are younger than 62 when they retire! would these public officials agree to that same value reduction? I think not, in fact they are usually receiving FULL PAY based on their highest 3 years of paid service!
So what can the voters and taxpayers do to stop this? We can force these people out of office with our votes! We can also hold them accountable for the laws they make and then change behind our backs, one of which was edited to allow this double dipping back into Ohio’s revised code back in 2000!
Ohio Revised Code 145.38 Employment of Retirant: codes.ohio.gov/orc/145.38
Social Security Statement on this topic: www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10051.pdf
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