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Pension cut proposed for officials


Aides to Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary are drafting legislation that would slash the retirement benefits for elected and appointed officials -- including those already retired.

Mr. Gary will unveil the legislation, which is expected to save the county about $3 million, during a 10 a.m. press conference tomorrow, according to a high-level source within the administration.

If approved by the County Council, Mr. Gary's legislation would repeal a controversial 1989 law that allowed elected and appointed officials to begin drawing pension benefits at age 50, the source said.

It would cut everyone's pension benefits, including retirees, by 20 percent and would raise the retirement age to 60. Retirees who are not yet 60 and do not have at least 16 years' county service would lose their benefits temporarily. Their benefits would resume when they reached the new retirement age.

The legislation could affect the retirement benefits of nearly half of the 95 officials and former officials within the plan, including two of the architects of the 1989 law -- former county administrator Adrian G. Teel and former personnel director Richard F. Mayer. Mr. Teel's pension benefits are estimated to be more than $75,000 annually; Mr. Mayer's about $32,000 a year.

Another former county official, Louise L. Hayman, who was press secretary for then-County Executive Robert R. Neall, also would be affected. A recent legal opinion by county attorneys cleared the way for Ms. Hayman, 47, to begin collecting $25,896 annually in three years. But the legislation would delay those benefits until she turns 60.

The legislation would not prevent three current county officials -- Human Resources Officer Ardath M. Cade, Economic Development Director Michael S. Lofton and Central Services Officer Jerome W. Klasmeier -- from being vested for the lucrative benefits. The editors of The Capital newspaper in Annapolis have called on Mr. Gary to prevent the three from collecting benefits when they reach retirement age.

The legislation would place all elected and appointed officials into the same pension plan offered to most county workers, who must be at least 60 to retire, the source said.

The County Council considered similar legislation in 1994 but demurred after learning that stripping retirees of benefits may not be constitutional. But Mr. Gary has received legal advice from the attorney general's office that he can roll back certain pension benefits, the source said.

Mr. Gary declined to comment.

The county's 3,000 nonschool employees, including police, fire and road workers, are covered by five pension plans.

A comprehensive pension overhaul also may be in the works.

Last month, the County Council defeated a measure that would have modified pension rules to allow retired police officers to work as part-time sheriff's deputies providing courtroom security, after Mr. Gary threatened to veto it. His aides said he opposed the bill because he wants to make comprehensive changes.

The 1989 pension law has become an emotionally charged political issue, one Mr. Gary used against his opponent, Theodore J. Sophocleus, in last fall's executive race. As a county councilman, Mr. Sophocleus voted for the pension, which benefited himself and his wife, Alice, who was his legislative aide.

County Councilman James E. "Ed" DeGrange, a Glen Burnie Democrat, proposed three weeks ago eliminating pensions for elected county officials. He appointed a group of residents and former county employees two weeks ago to draft the legislation.

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