July 18, 2008

City’s Double-Dippers Could Increase

By Adam Behsudi, The Frederick News-Post, Md.

Jul. 17--Rehiring top-level employees who accepted the City of Frederick's recent buyout offer could be a popular option.

It's one Mayor Jeff Holtzinger will likely pursue for two directors under his charge -- acting executive assistant Ron Tobin and acting director of public works Earl Reed.

"I will eventually go back to the (Board of Aldermen) to seek reappointment of those two individuals," he said. Tobin and Reed are among 67 city employees who took an early retirement package last month that provides two years of salary and the retirement benefits to which they are entitled.

Three people who retired under the program have already been rehired as full-time employees.

Two of them are supervisors -- Keith Brown, assistant deputy director of public works, and parks supervisor James Wheeldon. The third is an experienced technician with the city's water department. Holtzinger said he has left it to hiring managers to decided how best to fill vacancies in their departments. Outside candidates and employees wanting promotions will be considered equally for open positions. "We said no one was guaranteed their job back," he said. "If a person is rehired who took the early retirement program they can only be rehired at the bottom of the (pay) scale."

Holtzinger said rehiring can be a benefit by employing someone with a great deal of experience at a comparatively cheap salary. Both Tobin and Reed continue to work in acting positions at the bottom of their payscale. During the acting period, and if rehired, Tobin's annual salary of $82,385 will be reduced to $79,088. Reed will see his pay decrease from $100,979 to $85,415.

The city is also continuing to pay 15 employees who have agreed to work until either September or December. They are employees who took the early retirement, but will help with the transition until their positions are filled, said Gerry Kolbfleisch, director of the finance department. Former budget director Jon Angel, the primary engineer of the early retirement plan, accepted a buyout and had agreed to work through December. However, he ended his service to the city this week, Kolbfleisch said.

Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak worried about the legality of the process. She said the plan was executed too fast and an already existing retirement plan committee had no input on the buyout plan and the changes to the city's 25-year and 30-year retirement plans.

While she questioned that process, Kuzemchak agreed that the rehiring of employees is a decision best left to supervisors. "Hiring people is not supposed to be a political job," she said.


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