Md. bill crafted to aid 1 man


The bill sounds simple enough. It would allow former state workers a second chance to apply for military service credits and boost their pensions.

But the bill introduced by two Anne Arundel County legislators is carefully crafted so that only one person would benefit: Robert L. Walker, the former state secretary of agriculture and the current No. 2 official in Arundel government.

If the legislation passes, Walker stands to collect an additional $17,500 over his retirement, according to a state estimate.

"I earned it," Walker said. "I would have gotten it if I had applied. ... I just wasn't here physically at the time" to apply.

The bill's sponsors - state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno and Del. Joan Cadden - say they took on the cause because Walker, a veteran who lives in Pasadena, is a constituent who lost out on retirement money.

"The position he holds for the county does not exclude him from contacting our office," Jimeno said. "He has no place [to turn] besides his senator and delegates."

The legislation is what those around Annapolis call a "red-headed Eskimo." They are bills so specifically designed that they aid just one person, business or interest with unique qualifications - such as being an Inuit with red locks.

Once every few years, they help someone having trouble with the pension system. A few years ago, the state extended the deadline for someone who had neglected to redeem a winning lottery ticket, recalled lobbyist Gary Alexander.

"There are very legitimate red-headed Eskimos, and they are few and far between," said former Speaker of the House Casper R. Taylor Jr., who added that this one might be legitimate.

Walker, who was agriculture secretary under Gov. William Donald Schaefer, neglected to turn in the paperwork necessary to get paid in his state pension for his military service. He was working out of the country at the time the paperwork had to be submitted. This bill would give him a second chance to submit those documents.

But no one else in Walker's predicament would qualify because the bill is so narrowly written.


To be eligible under the legislation, a person must have been employed by the Department of Agriculture on or after July 1, 1985; left state employment on or after June 30, 1997; have earned 12 years of service in the state teachers' pension system; and have lived outside the United States for at least three years after leaving state employment.

The Anne Arundel bill has become known as a "red-headed Eskimo with blue-eyed, blond-haired kids," said J. Howard Pleines, the director of legislation and research for the state pension system.

Jimeno said he intended to include in the bill anyone in a position similar to Walker's. Cadden said state retirement and pension system officials requested that the bill be narrowed to cover only Walker.

Pleines said his agency probably recommended it be narrowed so that the cost didn't climb.

"If you make it broader, then you're going to have potentially greater liabilities. You might be talking hundreds of people," he said, adding that the pension system has not taken a position on the bill.

As a Navy reservist, Walker served on the USS Sumner from 1971 until 1973 in the Atlantic. After 10 years with state government, an employee is entitled to credit for such active-duty military service.

Walker said he began working for the state government in 1985 and served as deputy secretary, and then secretary of agriculture, until 1994. He was then hired by the University of Maryland and headed to Ukraine on a diplomatic assignment.

In 1997, he left his University of Maryland post but remained overseas in Moscow, working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Walker said he didn't know it at the time, but once he left state government, he had three years to submit his paperwork to get credit for his military service.

He said he thought the compensation was automatic because he had told the state he was a veteran. But when he returned home in 2001 and later checked on his pension, he found he hadn't gotten the credit.

He applied and was denied because the deadline had lapsed. He appealed but was told that the only way he could get relief is through an act of the General Assembly.

'Perfectly legal'

Walker, who is also a former president of the Baltimore City school board and a former member of the University of Maryland system's Board of Regents, wrote his legislators in October 2003. "As you know, I served the State of Maryland," he began his letter to Jimeno.

Jimeno and Cadden said they were sympathetic.

"The bill is perfectly legal," Cadden said. "It's constitutional. It's a unique situation."

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