Washington law enforcement, firefighters still making lucrative retire-rehire deals
SEATTLE – A couple of years after retiring as Lakewood fire chief at age 58, Paul Webb returned to the profession and his former job title, this time at Orting Valley Fire and Rescue.
Hired under a contract without some of the typical employee benefits, Webb’s arrangement at the end of 2009 allowed him to draw more than $100,000 in annual pension payments while also earning up to $90,000 in yearly pay. It was an interim position, according to his contracts. He stayed in the job for three years.
It wasn’t long before six of Webb’s past colleagues followed similar paths, retiring and taking jobs in various contract positions, according to records.
In recent years, Washington lawmakers changed laws to crack down on retire-rehire arrangements, seeking to prevent pensioners from double-dipping when they return to similar government jobs.
But the Associated Press found that gaps in the special rules created for law enforcement officers and firefighters have allowed them to draw salaries alongside their pension. And those retirees generally retire much younger and with much larger retirement plans than teachers or other government workers.
According to local and state records obtained by AP under public records law, dozens of public safety retirees around the state became contractors. Some took part-time jobs such as polygraph consultants or pilots or instructors, while others returned to prominent managerial positions.
Other retirees in those two retirement systems reserved for law enforcement officers and firefighters – called LEOFF-1 and LEOFF-2 – took jobs that had them work slightly less than full time or with slightly less benefits, also allowing them to bypass rules that would have halted pension payments.