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Baltimore City Hall's new administrators already in line for government pensions

Some of Mayor Catherine E. Pugh's top advisers have prior experience in government, potentially making them eligible for multiple pensions for their government work.

One of her top administrators — James T. Smith Jr. — receives at least $150,000 in annual pension payments from his previous government jobs even as he draws a $175,000 salary from the city.

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Other new city officials who likely have banked future pension benefits from past government jobs include Peter A. Hammen, the new chief of operations, who served in the House of Delegates for 22 years, and Tisha Edwards, the new chief of staff, who was the interim CEO of the city's public school system.

The Maryland State Retirement and Pension System covers state employees, teachers, state police, judges, law enforcement officers, correctional officers and legislators. Officials said they could disclose an individual's current pension benefit paid with government contributions but not whether an individual is eligible for future payments.

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Smith, Pugh's chief of strategic alliances, appears to be in line for the most lucrative pension benefits based on his nearly 40 years in various government positions.

Smith, 74, has been a court bailiff, a judge, a state secretary of transportation, Baltimore County executive and a Baltimore County councilman.

The state is paying Smith nearly $91,000 a year as a pension for his nearly 16 years as a Baltimore County circuit judge, officials said in response to questions from The Baltimore Sun.

Judges who served 16 years or more receive a pension worth two-thirds of a current judge's salary. Those with shorter tenures on the bench receive 1/16th less for each year shy of 16 years.

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Circuit judges currently make $154,433 annually.

Smith also receives pension payments from Baltimore County, with the county's contribution totaling about $61,000 per year.

Smith had three stints as an official in Baltimore County that merit a pension benefit: He was a court bailiff from 1966 to 1968, a county councilman from 1978 until 1985, and he was county executive for two terms from 2002 until 2010.

Smith is not receiving a state pension for his stint as transportation secretary from 2013 to 2015.

Hammen, 50, is not currently receiving pension payments, according to state officials. But he will be eligible to draw a full pension at age 60, based on his years as a state delegate.

Under the rules that apply in Hammen's case, state delegates receive 3 percent of a current delegate's salary ($48,622) multiplied by their years of service, up to a maximum of two-thirds of a current lawmaker's salary.

At his age, Hammen could begin to receive reduced benefits.

Edwards, 45, who ran the city school system for a year until June 2014, is not currently receiving an allowance from the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System.

She worked in the school system's executive office for about six years and previously served as a founding principal at a public charter school for about four years. It's not clear what pension benefits she could receive based on those positions.

Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.

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