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Baltimore County improperly paid 20 employees both pension and salaries, inspector general finds

Baltimore County government improperly paid at least 20 employees both salaries and pensions at the same time despite county law that prohibits such double-dipping in most cases, a new report from the county’s inspector general found.

In total, the county employees were paid more than $1 million in salaries through Oct. 1 and more than $2.3 million in pension benefits through Sept. 30, according to the report released Monday. Most of the employees formerly worked for the county and were rehired from 2018 to 2020. The most recent rehire was in September.

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“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.

The report by Inspector General Kelly Madigan cites 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 departments use separate computer systems that don’t communicate with each other.

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“Such inconsistencies can give the appearance that certain employees are being given preferential treatment,” the report states.

The county had rehired the workers after they retired. The names of the employees and their job titles are redacted in the report.

County officials told The Baltimore Sun the employees work for the Police Department, Corrections, Health and Human Services, the Liquor Board and the Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections.

In a statement, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a Democrat, said the county “will work quickly to address the issue to improve accountability, reduce government waste, and provide cost savings to taxpayers.”

The county will not seek to recoup money from the employees, said Sean Naron, a spokesman for Olszewski. The county will continue paying their pension benefits, but will “implement additional policies and management procedures to prevent future occurrences,” he said.

Asked whether the employees will continue working, Naron said in an email to The Sun that “all impacted employees are under review and determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis.”

Madigan, a former prosecutor, is the county’s first inspector general and the investigation released Monday represents her office’s first major report.

In a formal response to the report, members of the Olszewski administration said the county has a long-standing practice to let an employee work and collect a pension for up to six months for “select professional or technically complex positions.”

Some of the employees fall under that category, county Budget and Finance Director Ed Blades and Human Resources Director Rhoda Benjamin wrote in the response.

Their departments are awaiting legal guidance from the county law office, they wrote.

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. That 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.

The same year, the council passed legislation to let retirees return to county employment part-time in certain circumstances. 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.

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There are some other situations under which county law lets people work and collect a pension, but the 20 positions examined in the report did not meet the criteria, the inspector general found.

Madigan took office in January as head of the county’s Office of Ethics and Accountability, an independent agency Olszewski created last year as part of an ethics reform package. The name has since been changed to the Office of the Inspector General.

Madigan, who also oversees the county ethics commission, said she has only one staffer: her deputy, Steven Quisenberry, a former FBI agent who recently joined the office.

She said she would advocate for more resources.

This report demonstrates the potential and the value of the office for Baltimore County government,” Madigan said.

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