Friday, December 19th, 2008
Sheriff to retire/rehire
By Margie Wuebker
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey will retire effective Dec. 31 and then commence a new term on Jan. 5 in a move similar to retire/rehire programs in other sectors.
Grey contacted The Daily Standard on Thursday to formally announce his intentions, which will allow him to collect retirement benefits while being paid his full salary.
Because Grey is an elected official, a public hearing will not be held and no approval is needed by a governing board, such as in the case of government or school employees who retire and hire, county Clerk Kim Everman said.
Grey said he contacted the Mercer County Board of Elections in November 2007 in accordance with rules specifying elected officials make notification of impending retirement at least 30 days prior to them running in a primary election. However, Grey said he chose not to make a public announcement at that point since he ended up running unopposed in May and November.
"I have been totally upfront and honest as sheriff," he said. "As a politician, I have learned you don't tell people things they might not like unless they specifically ask."
The sheriff notified Mercer County commissioners on Oct. 4 regarding the retirement that must occur effective Dec. 31. His new term begins Jan. 5. An interim sheriff will be named to cover the four-day gap; rules do not preclude Grey from being that person, according to Commissioner John Bruns.
Law enforcement officers can retire under the Public Employees Retirement System at the age of 48 with 25 years of service. Grey, who is 49, has nearly 28 years of service.
The sheriff's $59,652 salary is set by the state with no pay increase for the next four years. The county currently pays 17.63 percent of each law enforcement officer's salary into PERS with each of those employees contributing 10 percent.
Grey will continue to pay the 10 percent figure, but the county's contribution will drop to 14 percent and go into an annuity. The savings in this area represents $2,165 annually.
Additionally, Grey will be able to choose the minimum insurance plan the county offers once he retires and commences a new term. Instead of a family plan costing $13,555.50, he plans to enroll in a single plan costing $4,940, representing an annual savings of $8,615.
Total savings to taxpayers over the course of four years is estimated at $43,120, Grey pointed out. Bruns confirmed the decision will have a positive impact in terms of tax.
While Grey is the first elected official to embrace the retire/rehire concept, he is not the first county employee to do so.
"I know a lot of people will be upset at what I'm doing," Grey said. "That's because they don't understand that I am merely cashing in a retirement investment and my cashing in that investment represents a savings to taxpayers. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved ... a benefit for taxpayers and a benefit for Jeff Grey."
Grey, who has been sheriff since 2001, said he loves being sheriff and envisions seeking two more four-year terms.
"I don't want my decision to reflect on the employees who work here or for that matter the county commissioners," he said. "I'm not turning my back on the people of Mercer County. I am merely cashing in an investment in my retirement and continuing to do the job I love."