States Trying to End 'Sham' Retirements

I got a note recently from Doug Ross, editorial page editor of The Times of Northwest Indiana, who tells me that Indiana is trying to end the so-called "sham" retirements, in which a worker takes state government retirement and then a short time later takes a state job and starts all over again, working on two retirement pensions.

The paper found that more than a dozen local teachers and school administrators in its coverage area had taken retirement only to return to work to double-dip.

Indiana is not alone in taking on this issue. The Florida legislature also recently acted on it. Poynter's St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times reported on the issue, saying:

"... When the St. Petersburg Times began looking at double- and even triple-dippers, the state retirement system had about 8,000 members collecting paychecks and pensions at the same time. By June 2008, that number had risen to 9,397, and it's still growing.

"The double-dippers include at least 220 elected officials, an increase of about 40 since last year (2007.) An additional 175 are in high-paid senior management positions, up from 146 last year (2007.)

"The remaining 9,022 are regular employees who work for state or local government. Their salaries are substantially lower."

In New Mexico, KRQE-TV recently investigated local government officials double-dipping. The station found one guy who accumulated 3,000 hours of paid leave. Local government paid out a severance at the end of one contract, then entered into a new contract.

The (Lowell, Mass.) Sun found a firefighter who had a heart attack, took disability retirement and then took another city job.

The retirement schemes don't stop with government workers. You may have heard the recent story about alleged "sham divorces" involving Continental Airlines pilots. The Associated Press reported that "Continental Airlines Inc. is suing nine pilots that it says got sham divorces so their ex-spouses could collect their retirement benefits while they kept flying."

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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