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Politics

Baltimore Council President Nick Mosby chides mayor over pension veto, says he won’t lead but would support an override attempt

Baltimore Council President Nick Mosby chided Mayor Brandon Scott for vetoing a bill that would have reduced the number of years needed for the city’s elected officials to earn a pension, arguing the move sets back efforts to attract a talented, diverse group of public servants.

Mosby’s message, sent to the mayor Monday via letter, argues that the veto, delivered by Scott last week, risks creating a system where only the “wealthy and well-connected” can afford to run for city government.

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The bill vetoed by Scott, legislation sponsored by Mosby, would have reduced the number of years elected officials needed to become vested in the city’s pension plan from 12 to eight.

Mosby said Monday night he won’t attempt to wrangle votes for an override attempt but would support an effort by one of his colleagues. The council president also wouldn’t rule out trying to pass different legislation to modify pension eligibility.

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Mosby proposed the legislation in late October, arguing it was needed because of Question K, a charter amendment that sets term limits for the city’s mayor, comptroller and City Council. Overwhelmingly passed by city voters last month, the amendment will limit officeholders to two four-year terms in each office.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott speaks with Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby during a July news conference.

Scott vetoed the legislation Nov. 30, shortly after the city’s Board of Ethics urged a delay in making a decision on the matter until the board could issue an ethics opinion. The board cited a possible violation of the city’s ethics ordinance by the members of the City Council who stand to benefit from their vote. The change in eligibility would be effective for all members serving since 2022.

Scott wrote in his veto message: “Given the potential for ethical issues with the bill and the need for adequate time to perform due diligence and to provide recommendations for true cost-effective alternatives to the legislation, it is my duty to consider the advice of our expert agency heads and make the decision that is in the city’s best interest.”

Mosby’s letter took the mayor and the Board of Ethics to task for a lack of communication. The council president said he learned of both the ethics request and the mayor’s veto when they became public.

“Although it provides fodder for the media, residents are truly tired of the disconnection of city government and officials,” Mosby wrote. “As the leaders of Baltimore’s two branches of government, the city we both love would be better served if you and your administration would do more to open the lines of communication between the Council and the Mayor’s Office.”

On Monday, Baltimore City Council read Scott’s veto into the record, starting the clock on a period for the council to make a decision about whether to override or sustain the mayor’s veto. Ten votes are needed from the 15-member body to override the veto, a margin the original legislation did not have when it passed. Council approved the bill by a vote of 8-5 with two members abstaining.

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If the council wants to override, it has until January to make the decision. The group meets for the first time next year on Jan. 9.

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City finance and retirement officials pleaded with the council to wait to pass the bill, arguing a full financial analysis should be performed first. The city’s elected official pension plan, which is currently fully funded, paid out about $1.5 million in fiscal year 2022 to 31 retired officials and beneficiaries.

Baltimore’s retirement plan for elected officials has two tiers of benefits: one for officials who were elected before December 2016 and one for those elected after. Officials elected before 2016 receive 2.5% multiplied by their years of service and their annual salary of their highest position held.

Officials elected after 2016 receive a pension based on the same formula, but it is capped at 60% of their compensation at the time of retirement.

Currently, the mayor is paid $189,044. Both the comptroller and City Council president make $131,798. Council members are paid $73,966.

There are also built-in increases. After two years of receiving benefits, officials elected before 2016 receive an increase tied to the current compensation of the position held before they retired. An official who retired as the city’s mayor, for example, would receive an increase at the same rate as the current mayor.

Officials elected after 2016 are capped at a 1.5% increase until age 65 and 2% thereafter, but they have to wait only one year for the increases to begin.


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