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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cincinnati Flap: Official 'Retires' For Pension, Then Rehired In Same Job

CINCINNTI (TDB) -- When public officials in Ohio retire, then show up in their old job without skipping a beat, there is not even a revolving door involved. Nobody even has to leave the building. They can start "double-dipping" -- the nickname for picking up a government paycheck and pension check at the same time while in the same job.

There is a reform effort afoot, with an Ohio House bill stating that a government worker who "returns to employment in the same position or a position that is substantially equivalent with the public employer" loses the pension.

Now, word is seeping out of the County Administration Building that Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Norbert Nadel is in high dudgeon over a "double dip" approved last month. County commission sources have disclosed he has sent letters protesting that the head of a local correctional center -- which is operated by the county -- has been allowed to collect a pension and salary while still in his old post as the center's executive director.

"This is to inform you that on July 23, a majority of the Facility Governing Board of the River City Correctional Center voted in favor (by a four to one vote) of allowing . . . to retire and hire him back on a contractual basis at the entry level salary of the executive director position ($65,000 per year)."

The judge expressed "extreme disappointment in this decision" and said it conflicts with a county policy adopted in March. So far, there's been nothing from the three county commissioners about what they'll do, if anything. Nadel has told them he's since learned the official who is the subject of his ire has asked for five weeks vacation -- the same as he received before retiring. A new hire "would have to wait a year before accruing two weeks of vacation," he told the county commissioners.

Double dipping is not illegal in Ohio. But the practice does stir controversy from time to time. State Rep. Michelle G. Schneider, R-Madeira is sponsoring a House bill that would curtail double dipping. But the suburban Hamilton County lawmaker's measure may not go anywhere -- double dipping seems to be entrenched in the bureaucratic culture and past efforts to halt it have never gone very far.

Her bill is here, and it attempts reform of the government employee pension systems in the state.

The River City Correctional Center is a 200-bed treatment facility where inmates get a chance to end their substance abuse problems. By all accounts, it is a well-managed institution that strives to perform a difficult and necessary mission.

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