Letters to the Editor – February 3, 2011


Retire/rehire column misinformed

I’d like to respond to Alex Belz’s article (in the Jan. 20 issue of the North Wind) regarding the ability of a municipality to rehire one of their own retired employees.

Marquette County has been one of 726 Michigan municipalities as clients of Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (MERS) since 1957.  In May of 2004, the MERS Retirement Board amended their plan document and removed a $15,000 annual earnings limit imposed on MERS retirees, if they were to return to work for the same employer. There have never been restrictions if a retiree went to work for another municipality.

In a document written by MERS Senior Deputy General Counsel, Thomas Petroni, to MERS CEO Anne Wagner in 2009, Petroni wrote, “In this environment, many municipalities have been eager to rehire former employees after retirement, and the board’s decision in 2004 to eliminate plan restrictions on post-retirement employment under the Plan Section 31(1) was widely supported by the Employer Advisory Group.”  I believe the environment Mr. Petroni is talking about is Michigan’s poor economy, the loss of experienced and trained municipal employees and tight budgets not allowing for hiring replacement personnel. In the same document, Mr. Petroni states, “Post-retirement employment rules rely on the participating municipality for compliance and enforcement.” The policy the Marquette County Board rescinded in February of 2010 included protection for the county and restrictions on anyone rehired if they were collecting their earned MERS benefit. Due to MERS recent amendments to the plan of Nov. 10, 2010, Marquette County is revisiting the need for another post-retirement employment policy.

The MERS Defined Benefit pension plan is much like paying into Social Security; you hope to meet the requirements and expect your earnings will be there to collect. The MERS amendment in 2004 allowed for many eligible employees across the state to opt out of their pension benefit and start collecting their earnings while continuing to work. To be eligible, the employee had to have met the age and years of service requirements under the MERS pension plan. This was all done legally and within the MERS guidelines. It was later determined that eligible employees had to leave their employment for at least 30 days and if the employer wanted to rehire them, this would be acceptable. Nothing illegal about any of this.

No person should be discriminated against when seeking employment just because they are receiving an earned benefit from prior employment.

Jack Schneider
Marquette County