Charles I. Ecker is waiting to see whether the Maryland legislature will give him an exemption that would allow him to receive his state pension while collecting his $80,000-a-year salary as Howard County executive.
Ecker, 61, the retired deputy superintendent of county public schools, cannot get his pension because Maryland law requires that state retirement payments be discontinued to anyone under the program who gets a job with an agency that operates under the state pension system.
He retired from the schools post last year after 15 years of service and had been receiving a pension. He was elected county executive in November.
Ecker is counting on state lawmakers to adopt a bill that would allow him to have it all -- his $40,000-a-year pension from the state retirement system and the $80,000 he makes as county executive.
In previous years, former state or county employees who come )) out of retirement to win elective office have gotten their pensions anyway after the General Assembly passed legislation giving them exemptions.
Ecker hopes the current legislature does the same for him. He said he discussed his situation with state retirement officials and state Del. Robert H. Kittleman, R-Howard, but did not ask the lawmaker to introduce a bill to help him. He said he should be entitled to his retirement pay.
"A lot of people retire from a lot of places and get a retirement check after they start another job," he said. "If I retired from The Evening Sun and went to work somewhere else, there would be no problem. I think if you want to attract and encourage good people for public service you do not want to throw roadblocks in their way."
Kittleman said he does not plan to take any action to help Ecker, but added it is likely that someone else will introduce a bill to allow all retired employees elected to public office last month to receive their pension benefits.
"I told [Ecker] that I've seen it passed with no controversy and I presume it will happen again," he said. "I said that has been the custom and practice and that it will be done again."
Kittleman said he would support permanent legislation to let elected officials who have participated in the state retirement system receive pension payments rather than relying on special exception bills.
"I think it's ridiculous," he said. "Legislation like this clogs up the calendar."
However, he said he does not plan to introduce such a measure himself. He said that should be done by legislators who sit on money committees.
Del. Virginia M. Thomas, D-Howard, however, said Ecker should not be entitled to pension payments while receiving his county executive salary.
"He's not making all of us aware of what he wants," Thomas said. "But if, in fact, he does want a special interest bill, there's a question of double-dipping."