Under the new legislation, proposed by County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., certain retirees can now return for part-time or seasonal government work within six months of retiring after previouscounty law prohibited double-dipping in most cases.
The county violated its code when it paid more than $1 million in salaries through Oct. 1 and more than $2.3 million in pension benefits through Sept. 30 last year to rehired employees, a report from the county’s inspector general found.
County officials told The Baltimore Sun the employees work for the police department, corrections, health and human services, the liquor board, and permits, approvals and inspections.
In 2017, the County Council scaled back an enhanced pension benefit that let some employees get separate pensions and large payouts for having served the county in multiple positions. The program had allowed then-County Executive Kevin Kamenetz — a Democrat and former councilman — and other high-ranking officials who previously served on the County Council to earn two pensions and a lump-sum payout upon retirement.
That same year, the County Council voted to repeal a section of the county code and replace it with legislation that essentially gave retirees two ways to return to work for the county and collect both a salary and pension; employees who retired before 2017 and waited one year could return for part-time or seasonal work, and retirees who waited six months could return for temporary work for up to six months.
The County Council could approve extending that time. The bill was meant to ensure that retirees could work in seasonal positions, like jobs at public golf courses run by the county’s revenue authority.
County Inspector General Kelly Madigan found that at least 20 county employees who collected pensions and salaries did not meet either of those standards. Her report cited a lack of communication between the county’s human resources and retirement offices, which it says can lead to inconsistencies in how rules are applied.
“The Office considers the simultaneous payments of salaries and pension benefits to these employees as waste to the County as these individuals are not entitled to receive both payments under the existing version of the County Code,” the report from the Office of the Inspector General states.
Council members on Monday night voted to repeal the section again, getting rid of the six-month waiting period before certain retirees can return to part-time government work.
Those retirees can now work up to a year in part-time or seasonal work instead of the previous six months, a time constraint that Olszewski’s administration wrote was an impediment to rehiring.
After the term of their contractual employment is up, the County Council may vote to extend their employment each year thereafter.
The bill clarifies that any retiree hired under the code’s previous authority will be rehired to be in compliance with the updated law.
County Council members welcomed the change.
“The reality is [we’re] gonna hire somebody to do these jobs anyway,” said Council Chair Julian Jones, a Democrat. He noted that retired firefighters with commercial drivers’ licenses are now enabled to work as county bus drivers.
Why not hire “somebody who knows Baltimore County, who’s served 35, 25 years?” he said.
County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers said replacing the provision will help the county hire bus drivers, crossing guards and other employees that will allow the county to “have the knowledge transfer that we need.”