Judge doubles former county official's pension

He says retirement tally should be based on more recent of two systems

Anne Arundel

April 23, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge ordered a former county councilman and county attorney's pension doubled yesterday, ruling that county officials incorrectly calculated the former employee's retirement payments.

The ruling gives Phillip F. Scheibe, a former two-term county councilman who later headed the legal office for former County Executive John G. Gary Jr., a pension of about $2,200 a month. County officials had calculated that Scheibe was due about $1,100 a month after he retired in 1999 after 15 years as a county employee.

In yesterday's ruling, Circuit Administrative Judge Joseph P. Manck settled a dispute on how Scheibe's years should be counted under two county pension plans.

Timothy E. Meredith, a private attorney hired by the county for the case, had argued - successfully to the county Board of Appeals but unsuccessfully to Manck - that Scheibe's years of employment under an older plan should be tallied separately from his years under a newer, more generous plan, with the two figures added.

But Manck agreed with Scheibe's lawyer, William C. Mulford II, who contended that the years should be folded into the more recent pension plan.

Although county officials said yesterday that they did not know whether the ruling would affect other employees' pensions, Scheibe, 68, said the decision could have an impact on others' retirement benefits.

"It affects people who left and came back and were re-employed, like myself," said Scheibe, who was a county councilman from 1965 to 1966 and from 1970 to 1974.

"It also affects people who never left."

Another case on hold

A challenge to pension calculations by Robert J. Dvorak, who held various county jobs and most recently was Gary's chief administrative officer, has filed a similar complaint. That case is before the Board of Appeals, which has delayed action while waiting for the Scheibe case to be resolved. It is unclear how many other current and former county officials also worked under the different pension plans.

Created in 1973, the pension plan for elected and appointed county officials was made more generous in 1989.

Financial woes

In the early 1990s, several state officials began working for the county and transferred their years of state service to the county retirement plan. By the mid-1990s, the plan was underfunded by $14 million.

An alarmed County Council phased out the plan in 1994, but in 1996, Gary and the council reworked the plan and merged it with the pension plan for other county employees. Scheibe was county attorney during the reconfiguring of the county pension system,

Deputy County Attorney David A. Plymyer said yesterday that it was too soon for the administration to decide whether it will appeal Manck's ruling.

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