Legal opinion won't impede pension Officials resolute in case of former aide

September 24, 1995|By JOHN A. MORRIS | JOHN A. MORRIS,SUN STAFF

An aide to former Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall will receive a lucrative pension when she retires despite an opinion from Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., a county spokeswoman said Friday.

Mr. Curran released a legal opinion Thursday suggesting county officials incorrectly credited Louise Hayman, who was Mr. Neall's press secretary, with four years she had worked for former Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

State Del. John R. Leopold, who requested Mr. Curran's opinion in July, called it a "public rebuke" of county officials, particularly County Attorney Phillip F. Scheibe.

"I think it puts the spotlight on the good-old-boy network that thinks of themselves first and not the taxpayers," said Mr. Leopold, a Pasadena Republican.

"If we are going to bend over backwards, we should bend over backwards for the taxpayer . . .," he said.

Mr. Scheibe declined to comment about Mr. Leopold's remarks.

Lisa Ritter, spokeswoman for County Executive John G. Gary, said officials believe they calculated Ms. Hayman's benefits properly.

The retirement benefits offered to 95 current and former appointed and elected officials have become a controversial issue in county politics. Mr. Gary has proposed slashing them by 25 percent and raising the retirement age from 50 to 60.

The controversy over Ms. Hayman's pension began this winter when Mr. Scheibe first interpreted the laws governing the transfer of state service as Mr. Curran has.

But a few days later, he reversed his decision to one favoring Ms. Hayman.

Ms. Hayman, 47, said she was told she would receive $25,896 annually when she turns 50. Those benefits would be delayed until she turns 60 if the council approves Mr. Gary's proposal.

The disagreement involves the first 71 days that Ms. Hayman worked for the Neall administration. Because former County Executive O. James Lighthizer's press secretary had not left yet, Ms. Hayman joined Mr. Neall as an independent contractor and was not part of the pension plan during that time.

Mr. Curran said those 71 days created a legal barrier that prevents the county from transferring Ms. Hayman's credits under the state pension system to the county's.

Mr. Scheibe has ruled that she qualified because her duties remained the same throughout her county employment.

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