By Ed Runyan
The Ohio 11th District Court of Appeals has ruled that Warren Auditor David Griffing must certify the retirement date for a Warren Municipal Court employee, possibly paving the way for the employee to retire and be rehired.
A 1984 Warren ordinance prohibits city employees from retiring and then returning to work for the city more than half-time, though Warren Law Director Greg Hicks has said elected officials are exempt from the policy.
Ohio’s public employee retirement system voided the retirement request for the employee, Louise O’Grady, in early 2011 as a result of Griffing’s refusal to certify O’Grady’s retire/rehire.
The appeals court said Griffing must now submit a final payroll date to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System for O’Grady, who is a clerk-bailiff for Judge Thomas Gysegem of Warren Municipal Court.
Griffing and Warren Law Director Greg Hicks could not be reached to comment on the decision or say whether it will be appealed. Atty. John Juhasz, who represents O’Grady, also could not be reached.
Judge Gysegem, however, said the court ruled “very fast” and said the law is “very clear” on what Griffing should do in such cases. There was no dissenting opinion in the matter, he noted.
As for whether this will open the door for O’Grady and other city employees to retire and return to full-time employment with the city, Judge Gysegem said it already is common — among elected officials, school superintendents and county employees.
Warren’s Human Resources Department said recently it hasn’t had a single Warren employee return to work after retirement in about 20 years.
Several elected officials have done it, however, including Judge Gysegem, Hicks and Griffing, according to the OPERS.
Judge Gysegem said allowing an employee such as O’Grady to retire and return to work doesn’t cost Warren taxpayers any money. In fact, it saves 24 percent — the 14 percent the city paid toward her retirement before she retired and the 10 percent employee contribution to the retirement that the city pays for her and other employees.
In his case, Judge Gysegem said the city saves 14 percent — the city’s contribution to his retirement. Elected officials like him have to pay the 10 percent contribution on their own, he said.
According to the appeals court ruling, Griffing refused to submit O’Grady’s final payroll date “based on the fact that there was no break in her service” between her intended retirement at the end of 2010 and the beginning of her re-employment.
But Griffing’s role in the certification of her retirement should have been merely “ministerial,” or “in obedience to the mandate of legal authority, without regard to or the exercise of his own judgment upon the propriety of the act being done,” the ruling says.
The ruling mentions that Griffing also contended O’Grady’s re-employment after retirement may violate the Warren retire/rehire ordinance, but the ruling doesn’t address that issue.
Judge Gysgem said a number of rulings in recent years have supported the idea that state law supersedes a city ordinance.