Pension windfall

Baltimore County: Council needs to change generous formula, but Ruppersberger is grandfathered.

November 27, 1999

C.A. DUTCH Ruppersberger, thanks to an odd set of circumstances, has won the Baltimore County pension jackpot.

When he leaves office in 2002, he is in line to receive a pension of $89,250 a year. The County Council wants to amend the pension rules to ensure he will be the only beneficiary of such an overly generous payout.

Baltimore County residents have known about Mr. Ruppersberger's pension for years. In the last election, former GOP delegate John J. Bishop tried -- unsuccessfully -- to galvanize voters on this issue.

In the 1980s, the County Council decided that for pension purposes, service in the council and as county executive should be counted as one continuous block. Dale Anderson had at the time been the only person to have been a member of the council and county executive. Mr. Ruppersberger is the only other county executive since charter government was enacted in 1956 to have served in the council.

With the county executive now earning $105,000 a year, long prior service on the council can result in a windfall. The benefit is disproportionately generous in comparison to other county pensions and far greater than any elected official could receive elsewhere in Maryland.

Council President Kevin Kamenetz said the current council decided, "Dutch's situation is unique and shouldn't happen again." Under a proposed change, council service and county executive service will be considered separately for pension calculations.

Regardless of the council's action, Mr. Ruppersberger will collect his pension. State law prevents current officeholders from increasing -- or reducing -- their own compensation. Their action can only affect future office holders.

Pensions are usually for people who toil at jobs for years. Even under the proposed change, council members will receive pensions far more generous than those available to most other part-time employees.

Perhaps this is an opportune time for council members to examine their own pension formula.

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