Smith to collect pension
Trumbull County engineer files retirement with state
WARREN — Trumbull County Engineer Randy L. Smith intends to retire before starting his new term next week.
However Smith, who was sworn into office in private Wednesday, said he will continue to serve the public while drawing his retirement pay. He said the decision to file his paperwork with the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System was a personal one because “it was the right time” in his 31-year career as a public employee.
“It was done as a matter of course,” Smith told the Tribune Chronicle before taking the oath of office Wednesday. The engineer will turn 50 in May.
Smith will retire as of Saturday. State law allows elected officials to retire before their re-election. On Dec. 6, 2015, Smith filed written notice with the Board of Elections as required by state law indicating he would retire before the start of his next term.
In his letter, Smith referred to Section 148.35 of the Ohio Revised Code that requires an elected officeholder to file notice at least 90 days before the March 2016 primary in which Smith ran unopposed for his new term that starts Monday.
A loophole in Ohio pension law allows public employees such as Smith to collect a pension check from a state public pension fund while at the same time collecting a paycheck from the local government, in a practice known as “double dipping.” The maneuver is legal, but it has drawn criticism from some watchdog groups in the state.
Buckeye Institute, a think tank for public policy and education, in past cases had lashed out at public employees who double dip, saying it draws down the pension fund.
Smith did not want to comment on the criticism or about Buckeye Institute’s comments because he didn’t know about the organization or their beliefs. He said his deciison to retire had nothing to do with an investigation of the engineer’s office being conducted by the state Attorney General’s office.
The engineer, by state law, will get a raise for his new term determined by a formula set under Ohio Revised Code 325.18. According to the Trumbull County Auditor’s office, Smith’s salary was $99,209 in 2016 and will be raised to $109,378 in 2017. State law says the county engineer shall be classified for salary purposes according to the population of the county. Public officials are also prohbited from receiving in-term raises.
In 2012, several elected officials were motivated to retire before their re-elections, including Sheriff Thomas Altiere, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, county Commissioner Dan Polivka, and Family Court Judge Pam Rintala.
Warren Law Director Greg Hicks had filed a notice to retire before his re-election in 2011.
In 2011, former Warren Auditor David Griffing and former Niles Mayor Ralph Infante also had filed notices to retire, but were defeated in their re-election bids. Also in the past, Common Pleas Judge W. Wyatt McKay and Warren Municipal Judge Thomas Gysegem had filed their retirement paperwork.