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Altiere: Changes in PERS led to retirement

Elected leaders stay in office, tap into PERS
Published: 12/25/12 @ 12:05

By Ed Runyan



Trumbull County Sheriff Thomas Altiere says changes the state made to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System prompted him to retire at the end of this year rather than wait.

He suspects the changes also motivated several other elected officials as well.

In 2010 and 2011, seven elected officials filed paperwork as required by state law indicating they would retire before the start of their next term in office.

They are Altiere, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, county Commissioner Dan Polivka, Family Court Judge Pam Rintala, Warren Law Director Greg Hicks, Warren Auditor David Griffing and Niles Mayor Ralph Infante.

Common Pleas Court Judge W. Wyatt McKay and Warren Municipal Court Judge Thomas Gysgem filed their retirement paperwork several years before that.

Altiere, who’s been sheriff nearly 20 years, was re-elected to another four-year term in November but indicated the term that begins Jan. 7 would be his last.

The sheriff says the Legislature, which passed several changes in September that reduced the cost to run the state retirement system, could continue to make changes to the system in the years to come that would affect his retirement benefits.

But retiring effective Dec. 31 will give him a better chance of hanging on to two especially important parts of the retirement system: health insurance for his wife and the 3 percent cost-of- living increase for retirement benefits, Altiere said.

Retiree health care for spouses will be phased out over several years starting in 2015 as a cost-saving move, according to OPERS.

As for cost-of-living increases, since 2002, state retirees have received a flat 3 percent increase each year in pension payments, but under the new law, pension increases will instead be based on the Consumer Price Index, as does the Social Security Administration, OPERS says.

Altiere said as the law reads now, his wife will stay covered on his retirement insurance, and he’ll continue to get 3 percent increases in his retirement benefits.

OPERS actually used the Consumer Price Index before 2002, and Social Security has used it since the 1970s, said Gordon Gatien, government relations manager for OPERS.

OPERS said the changes the Legislature approved were needed because the number of state retirees has increased dramatically since the 1960s, when there were 31,000 statewide. Today there are 185,000, and the state expects the number to rise to 370,000 by the 2050s. One reason is that people are living longer.

Over the years, some have criticized the system that allows public employees to receive both pension and salary at the same time, so-called “double-dippers.”

A year ago, state Rep. Rex Damschroder, a Republican from Fremont, sponsored a bill that would have ended the practice, but it didn’t get far.

Sean O’Brien, state representative from Brookfield, said he thinks the measure will resurface in the next few years.

O’Brien said he has mixed emotions on the issue: Keeping a veteran government employee, especially when he or she is willing to take a lower salary, saves the government money.

But the pay of judges and most other elected officials is set by law, so paying them less in retirement isn’t an option, O’Brien said.

The salary of public officials is public information, but retirement amounts are not.

For example, the Trumbull County sheriff earns $94,691, the prosecutor $115,703, common pleas court judge $121,350, county commissioner $76,976, Warren law director $86,657, and Warren auditor $80,745.

Their pensions are based on the average of the three highest-paid years of public employment multiplied by 2.2, multiplied by the number of years employed.

So someone earning $100,000 per year in his three highest-paid years with 30 years of service would get an annual retirement of about $66,000.

Part of the new law is that someone’s salary will be calculated after Jan. 7 based on the five highest-paid years.

The salary of Rose Ann DeLeon, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, had been questioned in recent months at $155,000 annually. But several Trumbull County officials will earn more than $155,000 in 2013, when adding retirement to their salary.

Altiere says double dipping may seem unfair to some people, but it’s “the same thing basically” as what’s done in the private sector.

“People who retire from Packard Electric or GM, they go out and get another job,” he said.


Posted by timOthy (anonymous) on December 25, 2012 at 3:39 a.m.

And all of the above care about you ! Really ? The SERVANTS SERVE THEMSELVES FIRST ! Don't give that Country Bull either. This is what is hurting are Country. Paying these POPULAR VOTE GETTERS with LAVISH BENFITS FOR THEM AND THEIR FAMILIES. While Insurance Companies are DICTATING that they would only cover the person and their kids. It's coming and is here. For the Private Sector. While WORTHLESS COUNTY EMPLOYEES STEAL: OFF THE PUBLIC. Even though it's legal. But who wrote the Law FOOL !

Posted by charms (anonymous) on December 25, 2012 at 5:52 a.m.


As much as I am critical of the public sector employees, why the animus?

You or I would do the same thing. In fact, it would be irresponsible to their families to do otherwise.

If you want to campaign for future changes in the PERS system, go ahead - but don't criticize people, who like you, act in their own best interest.

Posted by timOthy (anonymous) on December 25, 2012 at 6:39 a.m.

Charms Their own Interests are stealing PEOPLE'S money. 25 to 30 years on a JOB and your OUT ! If you haven't made it by now your NOT GOING TO MAKE IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How does a 30 year Police or Fire person pass the PHYSICAL. It's pretty clear that it's not acceptable for all. RETIRE FULLY !!!!

Posted by Archie1 (anonymous) on December 25, 2012 at 7:51 a.m.

Let us not forget, these individules worked for us a long time. They earned their pensions and respect just as other people do. To say they steal peoples money sound like a bit of sour grapes to me. I would ask this writer, " if these are such good jobs, why don't you go for them?"

It is sad to read comments from individules who know very little, or perhaps nothing, about these hard working folks make such stupid remarks.

To the retiring officials, I hope you all enjoy a long and healthy retirement. Thank you for your many years of dedicated service. You earned it!

Posted by glbtactivist (anonymous) on December 25, 2012 at 10:43 a.m.

Greedy politician. They should not be allowed to suck money out of the retirement system until they really retire. Someone should file a suit against them for lying about their retirement.

Posted by DontBanThisDrone (anonymous) on December 25, 2012 at 12:32 p.m.

There's a reason the "timOthys" of our society have nothing but disrespect for these people; it's because it's warranted.

Not a day goes by that our government officials DON'T tell us how broke they are, that their budgets are strained, and that they need more money, with that additional amount of money that they claim to "need" often being in the millions. And we see right where it goes.

So yeah; there's a reason the "timOthys" of our society have nothing but disrespect for these people.

It wasn't like this in the past, but it is today.


Posted by romans13and4 (anonymous) on December 25, 2012 at 4:52 p.m.

Altiere claims that the change in pers rules are the reason he's made this decision. I say ,bull, this was his plan all along. His backers criticized his opponent last election for already being retired and running for office, now it's ok because he doesn't have to answer to the voters for another 4 years.. It would be different if he was a respectable person but he is not , he has even turned against his daughter in- law and her family since her separation from is son.

Posted by TB (anonymous) on December 25, 2012 at 11:20 p.m.

And people wonder why public servants get a bad name....look at the above comments to see the mentality of many members of the public.

Best of luck to the retirees! You haven't stolen anything and are playing by the rules, laws, and contracts as required.

Posted by DontBanThisDrone (anonymous) on December 25, 2012 at 11:28 p.m.

TB must be "on payroll"

1) "...are playing by the rules, laws, and contracts..."

Exactly. Which therein lies the problem.


2) "...as required...."

Negative. What they're doing isn't required.


Posted by TB (anonymous) on December 26, 2012 at 4:25 a.m.

Even in the private sector, a contract is a contract, correct? They are required by law to abide by the terms of their employment contract. Is altiere not abiding by requirements? Did I miss something?
And if you don't like the rules, fine. But don't become upset with someone for abiding by them.

Posted by DontBanThisDrone (anonymous) on December 26, 2012 at 2:06 p.m.

Has dementia set in or something? None of these people are required to retire.

None of these people are required to return right back to their position after so-called retiring.

Yes, apparently you missed something.


Posted by DontBanThisDrone (anonymous) on December 26, 2012 at 2:15 p.m.

In addition, when your only defense is: "Well, they're following the law", you've officially lost your argument.


Posted by TB (anonymous) on December 27, 2012 at 11:22 a.m.

How so? So the flip side is that
A. They shouldn't retire as they see fit.
B. The rules/contract governing their employment are irrelevant.
C. They shouldn't work as they see fit.

Did I get that right?

Way to ignore contractual law as well. Nice dodge.

Posted by DontBanThisDrone (anonymous) on December 27, 2012 at 10:13 p.m.

Your lack of comprehension - which actually isn't your fault - precludes any continuance.

@ the "Jealous" comment: lol ok...yeah...sure. Please expand your tiny mind (which again, as stated above, isn't your fault).

ni-nite kids


Posted by TB (anonymous) on December 30, 2012 at 12:10 a.m.

Don't assume I can't comprehend. Prove your point by explaining it. And well-dodged again.

I responded directly to the issues you addressed. You ignored any other issues and quit.

Well debated!