April 21, 2014

Elyria
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Sheriff ‘retiring’ to collect pension

ELYRIA — Lorain County Sheriff Phil Stammitti is retiring, but he’s not really leaving the job he recently was re-elected to do.

Stammitti

Stammitti, 61, said he decided to retire from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System in September after Senate Bill 343 was approved, a bill that raises age and service limits for retirement eligibility, among other changes.

Stammitti informed the Board of Elections before seeking re-election of his intent to retire from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement system Dec. 31, as required by the Ohio Revised Code. He sent a news release Wednesday to The Chronicle-Telegram.

Stammitti said his decision was not made public during his re-election campaign simply because no one ever asked him about it.

“Why should I have to say something?” he said.

Stammitti said his decision to retire and collect a pension was not unlike his Republican challenger A.J. Torres, who had retired from the Ohio Highway Patrol and was collecting a pension when he challenged Stammitti.

Stammitti said he will be forfeiting two months of pension, as required, and will begin collecting in March. He said he decided to start collecting his retirement after changes were made that would have taken away the cost of living increase of 3 percent had he not retired by the end of this year.

Stammitti said the fact that he and other sheriffs in the state won’t receive a raise for four years also factored into his decision. Salaries are set by the Legislature based in part on a county’s population.

“I don’t make six figures. I gotta look out for myself,” he said, adding that providing for his family was a concern.

In a pre-election interview with The Chronicle-Telegram’s Andy Young, Stammitti said he made slightly more than $94,000 a year.

Bob Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, said Stammitti’s move was not unlike many sheriffs and other elected officials who have decided to collect from their pension fund while continuing to hold an office. It’s not illegal, and in their best interests to do so, he added.

“It has become pretty common. About half the sheriffs have retired and been elected for another term,” he said.

There are other local officials who have done the same thing, most notably Common Pleas judges Edward Zaleski, Thomas Janas and Domestic Relations judges Paulette Lilly and David Basinski. All retired and then ran for re-election, but only Zaleski and Basinski were successful at returning to the bench.

Stammitti said his retirement will not cost the taxpayers money but will save the county money as it reduces what the county contributes to his Public Employees Retirement System account. He will not receive a second pension but an annuity from the pension plan, according to the release.

And despite the decision, Stammitti said he is “not in retirement mode.”

“I can tell you I work at least 50 to 60 hours a week,” he said, adding that he will continue as usual.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.