Fire chief $550K pension was a mistake

Fire chief's $550K in extra pension money was the fault of Dupont, Wash., state auditors say. The state says the city misclassified the retired fire chief as an independent contractor, letting him work and receive $550K in pension payments.   

Ted S. Warren/AP/File
Greg Hull stands near a fire engine in the fire department garage in DuPont, Wash., in March. Mr. Hull, as the city's fire chief, got $550K in state pension money even though he had come back from retirement. Now, the state wants its money back.

Auditors are seeking to collect more than $550,000 from DuPont after concluding Friday that improper reporting led to excess pension payments for the city's fire chief.

The Department of Retirement Systems concluded that the city should not have classified Fire Chief Greg Hull as an independent contractor when he was hired after retiring from a position at another fire department. Hull's pension payments would have stopped if he had been labeled as a regular employee, so the state is now seeking to have the city repay the extra $550,000 in retirement money he received over the last few years.

"We feel the city is responsible for that overpayment," said Dave Nelsen, the legal and legislative services manager at the Department of Retirement Systems. It's a substantial amount of money for the city, accounting for roughly one-third of DuPont's annual fire department budget.

State officials recently notified Hull that his pension payments would be stopped, and city leaders said this week that Hull is resigning for "personal reasons." Hull will be able to apply for pension payments again starting next month, Nelsen said.

The retirement system began examining DuPont's procedures after an Associated Press investigation showed how some firefighter and law enforcement workers got late pay raises that helped increase their pensions. At about $184,000 a year, Hull had one of the largest pensions in the state.

DRS officials were still reviewing details of a raise that Hull received shortly before he retired in 2010 from Lakewood Fire District 2 to determine whether that pay bump was improperly included in his pension calculations. Nelsen said Hull's pension will also be influenced because he will have more service credits for his years working in DuPont, but he will lose cost-of-living adjustments he had received over the same period.

Auditors also dinged DuPont for improperly classifying two other workers as contractors, and they are seeking to have the city pay $45,000 to the pension system for those workers.

DuPont has the option of appealing. The city wrote in a brief response to the final audit that it believed all three people were properly labeled as contractors.

Mayor Michael Grayum did not return a call seeking comment.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Fire chief $550K pension was a mistake
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Latest-News-Wires/2013/0531/Fire-chief-550K-pension-was-a-mistake
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe