County Council 'intimidated,' candidate says Bishop denounces members for not reducing pensions

October 07, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

John J. Bishop, the Republican running for Baltimore County executive, has attacked the County Council for failing to cut elected officials' pensions, saying the members are "intimidated" incumbent Democrat C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's opposition.

Noting that five of the seven members have said the pensions are too generous, Bishop criticized their refusal to change a system under which an elected county official can retire at full pay for life, regardless of age, after 20 years' service.

"They have not moved because the executive has indicated he doesn't want them to move," Bishop said of the council.

Ruppersberger stands to benefit substantially from the system. He is the first council member to be elected county executive since a 1986 change that merged their pensions, which are based on final year's pay.

If Ruppersberger is re-elected and serves a full second term, his combined 17 years of council and executive service would make him eligible for an $89,250 annual pension for life. The second four-year term could cost county taxpayers more than $600,000 in lifetime pension benefits.

But the county executive has adamantly opposed a change, arguing that he and the councilmen contribute nearly 14 percent their pay toward their pensions.

"Perhaps our council should start listening to Baltimore County citizens and not be intimidated by the county executive," Bishop said in a statement.

The former Parkville delegate has called for a limit on the pensions equal to 50 percent of the executive's salary, matching the pension rules for Maryland's governor and Baltimore's mayor. Under his proposal, the next county executive would qualify for a pension of $52,500 -- half the $105,000 salary.

Without council action before the next executive takes office in December, however, the system will continue.

Ruppersberger and council Chairman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, say the public is not clamoring for a change.

"After the last newspaper article [on pensions] ran, we got not one call, nor letter, nor e-mail," Moxley said.

Michael H. Davis, spokesman for Ruppersberger, chided Bishop for pushing the issue.

"The reason that Bishop's grabbing on that is that he has no issues," Davis said. "The crime rate is down, school test scores are up, and the number of new jobs is going up. He has to create a false issue."

GOP Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, who represents North County and Owings Mills, refused to comment directly on Bishop's criticism.

But he said: "One of the positive things about the election process is that it raises issues. And now that this issue has been raised, I think we should review it. It may well be we're on the fat side."

Pub Date: 10/07/98

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