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Prince George's to introduce bill killing pension plan Controversial program allowed governor, others to draw early benefits


Prince George's officials are expected to consider legislation this month that finally would put an end to the county's controversial early pension program.

County Executive Wayne K. Curry said he intends to introduce a bill this week or next that would retroactively kill the program, which has been a source of embarrassment for Gov. Parris N. Glendening's administration in Annapolis.

If the ordinance is approved by the County Council, it would halt early benefits now flowing to seven former county officials, including former council members Sue V. Mills and Hilda R. Pemberton.

It also would bar future benefits to four other former Prince George's officials -- Mr. Glendening; Major F. Riddick Jr., his chief of staff; Michele T. Rozner, deputy chief of staff; and Michael J. Knapp, former state secretary of personnel.

In April, the state legislature ordered the county to enact just such an ordinance -- and in June, the County Council passed a law declaring the pension program null and void.

But a county pension lawyer later concluded that while the council had eliminated the program for future recipients, it had failed to end it retroactively, as required by the state law.

Last week, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. agreed with that assessment, prompting Mr. Curry's proposed new legislation.

"I'm sure we will comply with the requirements of state law," Mr. Curry said.

The program sparked an uproar in January, when it was reported that Mr. Glendening and the three aides who followed him to Annapolis stood to receive tens of thousands of dollars in early pension benefits because they technically had been forced from their county jobs.

Mr. Knapp, Mr. Riddick and Ms. Rozner were classified as "involuntarily separated" from county government because Mr. Glendening, then the county executive, asked for their resignations at the end of his term.

Mr. Glendening was regarded as eligible for the benefits because term limits prohibited him from running again for county executive -- though he had long said he planned to run for governor.

The three aides previously have said they would give up their benefits until they left government service or turned 55, whichever occurred first.

Mr. Glendening, who is 53, already has agreed to give up all benefits from the program.

Partly as a result of the pension scandal, Mr. Knapp, 42, lost his effectiveness and was forced by the governor to resign last month. He has applied to have his $22,972-a-year in early pension benefits, and county officials said his request is now "being processed."

Even if the County Council were to act quickly to repeal the program retroactively, Mr. Knapp might still be able to collect payments for a month or two if his paperwork were processed in time, county officials said.

Mr. Knapp could not be reached for comment. His telephone number is unlisted and he did not respond to a letter from The Sun requesting an interview.

County Council President Anne MacKinnon, a Democrat, said she was not familiar with the attorney general's opinion and had no comment on Mr. Curry's proposal.

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