DJFS workers question early retirement exclusion

Published 10:31 am Thursday, September 22, 2016

CHESAPEAKE–– The exclusion of the Lawrence County Department of Job and Family Services in an early retirement incentive plan for certain workers and departments under Lawrence County Commission’s jurisdiction was questioned by DJFS employees at Wednesday’s commission meeting at the Chesapeake Senior Center.

The plan involves the county purchasing up to three years service for all eligible employees paying solely the county’s regular contribution, and was approved by the commissioners in April of this year.

For example, if an employee has worked only 22 years, but needs 25 for retirement, the county can buy the last three years and allow for early retirement, although the employee will have less retirement income due to their missing contribution.

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The plan will go into effect Dec. 1, with 30 days given to commission to pay, leaving the next commission the bill.

Those eligible for the early retirement incentive plan are 100 percent of the of commission employees working in offices and members of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and include two commission administrators, the county custodial staff, Union-Rome Township Sewer District union workers and county EMS union members. Along with the DJFS, animal shelter and child support employees are not included.

Eligible employees for the early retirement incentive plan are determined by the PERS, because time served may come from other places of employment besides the county, as long as the employee is covered under PERS.

Lori Brownstead, a DJFS worker in the daycare department, questioned the commissioners on why the DJFS was not included in being eligible for the plan, even though they are under the commission’s jurisdiction. She presented the commissioners with a letter from the department as a formal request for participation in the plan.

“Although we have never seen any written criteria and/or guidelines for program eligibility, we believe we are eligible as employees hired by formal action of and, per Ohio Revised Code, are under the control and direction of the Lawrence County Commission. Local newspaper articles quoted the commissioners as stating that our agency was not eligible for the retirement incentive plan, yet we have never received any formal communication from the Lawrence County Commission as to why we did not qualify and were excluded from the program,” the letter states. “A written response at your earliest convenience would be greatly appreciated. We are requesting a copy of the program eligibility guidelines and, in the event that our request is denied, please provide a legal basis for exclusion with your response.”

The question garnered no response from the commissioners other than saying that they would get a response back to Brownstead on the matter.

“They told me that they’d review everything and contact me personally, and I hope that what they said to me is the truth,” Brownstead said. “I and others here just hope that they’ll come to their senses that we should get the buyout too, like everyone else, because we deserve it.”

Also at the meeting, the commissioners:

• Approved and signed the weekly invoices and certificates as presented by the auditor’s office.

• Approved two floodplain permits.

• Received and filed the dog warden report dated Aug. 27, 2016.

• Approved six transfer funds.

• Appointed Jeffery Eastham to the Lawrence County Planning Commission for a three-year term from Sept. 1, 2016-Aug. 31, 2019.

• Approved the donation of $1,500 to the Lawrence County Domestic Violence Shelter.

• Approved the donation of $1,000 to the Upper Township Volunteer Fire Department.

• Approved and signed the agreement between Lawrence County and ODOT for County Road 10 bridge replacement as requested by thecounty engineer.

• Received and filed the 2017 maximum financial liability for Children with Medical Handicaps Program in the amount of $104,134.87.

• Received and filed the public notice from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding Marathon Petroleum proposed dredging of three separate areas totaling 8,690 feet in length parallel to the shoreline not to exceed 200 feet riverward of the shoreline.

• Approved the Lawrence County DJFS to exchange, via an inter-county agreement, $50,000 to Seneca County DJFS. In exchange, the Lawrence County DJFS will receive $50,000 of Title XX (20) Base Funds from the Seneca County DJFS.

• Motioned to send a request to the county engineer for a speed study on County Road 115, County Road 69 and County Road 3.