Glendening, aides forgo early pensions

January 31, 1995|By Frank Langfitt and Thomas W. Waldron | Frank Langfitt and Thomas W. Waldron,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writers Marina Sarris, Lyle Denniston and John W. Frece contributed to this article.

In an attempt to limit political damage to his fledgling administration, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday that he and three top aides would forgo tens of thousands of dollars in early pension payments from Prince George's County that sparked sharp criticism over the weekend.

But the administration also said that the governor's chief of staff, Major F. Riddick Jr., would nonetheless receive a payment of nearly $184,000 from the county as compensation for unused sick leave and vacation time from his 16 years of work in Upper Marlboro.

Mr. Riddick will draw more than $59,000 of that sum because Mr. Glendening asked for his resignation from county government before leaving office as Prince George's executive last year. The resignation meant Mr. Riddick technically was "involuntarily separated" from county employment, even though he quickly followed his boss to a new job in the Maryland State House.

Michele T. Rozner, one of the governor's deputy chiefs of staff, will receive more than $68,000 in sick leave and vacation compensation -- $25,000 of it because she, too, was "fired" by Mr. Glendening from her county job.

The third aide, Michael J. Knapp, Mr. Glendening's nominee for state personnel secretary, would not say yesterday how much money he would receive in sick leave and vacation compensation from the county because it is considered private information under law, said Tim Ayers, the governor's director of communications.

Although they will be receiving tens of thousands of dollars in additional sick leave payments as a result of being fired in the county, none of the aides plan to give up the extra compensation as they did the early pension money. Under a county program, veteran workers who are laid off or forced from their jobs through political change can be reimbursed for 100 percent of their unused sick leave rather than the standard 50 percent.

"This is a one-time payment they feel, in some cases, represents 20 years of being good and coming to work," said Mr. Ayers. "They feel it's very legitimate for them to take that."

Mr. Glendening is not eligible to be compensated for any unused sick leave or vacation time from his tenure in Prince George's because he was an elected official.

The governor began yesterday with a hastily called 9 a.m. news conference in which he said the furor over the early pension benefits had become a distraction to the agenda of his 2-week-old administration.

"Although we are legally entitled to the pension benefit, which we all earned by serving the people of Prince George's County for more than 15 years, in the interest of getting on with the state's agenda . . . all of us have agreed to forego our retirement benefits until we are 55 or until we leave state service," Mr. Glendening said.

The decision will cost Mr. Glendening's aides a combined $235,000 in early pension payments, assuming they serve out his four-year term. Mr. Glendening, 52, will begin receiving his pension in three years, forgoing roughly $63,000 he would have received in the meantime. Mr. Glendening qualified for enhanced, early pension benefits under the involuntary separation provision because term limits barred him from seeking a fourth term as county executive.

Some state and Prince George's County officials have criticized the governor since it was reported Saturday that he and his aides would receive the early benefits even though they had not reached retirement age and were earning substantial salaries with the state.

Mr. Glendening has said he asked for their resignations in November to make it easier for his successor, Wayne K. Curry, to bring in his own people, not to trigger the special benefits.

The early-pension provision was designed to serve as a safety net for employees who were laid off or lost their jobs for political reasons. This month, however, Mr. Glendening rehired the aides at substantial salaries from the state. For instance, Mr. Riddick will earn $118,421 -- about $12,000 less than he was earning in Prince George's County.

During the news conference, Mr. Glendening talked of the sacrifice his aides had made and said they were being held to an unfair standard. Had they left county government to work for private business and received early pension payments, no one would have complained, he said.

"Unfortunately, those of us who opted to remain in public service . . . are being penalized for [that] decision," he said.

Mr. Glendening received some praise yesterday for the decision to forgo the pension money.

"It's a bona fide effort to move forward and continue the progress which had started following his inaugural, which has been stymied by the conversation on this problem," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. "This should put matters to rest."

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