Jackson County Legislature Changes Pension Rule That Would Benefit New Member | KCUR

Jackson County Legislature Changes Pension Rule That Would Benefit New Member

Dec 2, 2018

Ron Finley is returning to the Jackson County Legislature. A proposed ordinance would allow him to collect both his pay and his pension for past service. Some legislators don't like that idea.
Credit Finley Facebook Page

Updated, 4:56 p.m. Monday

On a six-three vote Monday the Jackson County Legislature approved the pension change.

Lawmakers in favor said it was unfair to deny someone money they had already earned.

The county Pension Board asked the Legislature to not change the rules citing potential problems with the IRS and the fact that the ordinance appears to benefit only income legislator Ron Finley.

Jackson County Executive Frank White could veto the ordinance. His office said he will examine the legislation before making a decision.

Finley was not at Monday’s meeting.

A new legislature will be sworn in on Dec. 28.

Original story continues below.

Buried deep on the agenda of last week's Jackson County Legislature meeting was an ordinance that would repeal a section "relating to the Jackson County Employees’ Pension Plan." The language is thick and a bit confusing.

But it boils down to this: The ordinance would help boost the income of Ron Finley.

Finley is a former county legislator, who served almost two terms on the Legislature from 1999 to 2005. He was elected again in November.

He is currently drawing a monthly pension of $479 for his service as a legislator, according to county records. However, under current county law, once Finley goes back on the payroll as a legislator he has to stop collecting his pension.

The ordinance that lawmakers will vote on Monday would change that for Finley and anyone else over 65 drawing a county pension.

"I think it doesn't pass the smell test," said 2nd District At-Large Legislator Crystal Williams. "Allowing people to double-dip with county resources is not acceptable."

The ordinance was sponsored by Dennis Waits and Garry Baker. Both are retiring after Monday's meeting, scheduled to be the last one of 2018.

Given the proposal just surfaced last week, Legislator Tony Miller says he needs more time. “I want to hear what the IRS says. I want to hear from the pension board and I want to hear from legal so that I can understand and make an informed decision,” he told KCUR.

According to draft minutes of the meeting provided by the county, the pension board met on Nov. 15 and "voted to convey to the County Legislature that they had reviewed Ordinance 5185 and opposed it," 

Two years ago Waits tried to push through a similar ordinance that would have allowed Baker, who was appointed to the seat, to draw both his legislative pay and his county pension. That ordinance failed.

Neither Baker nor Waits immediately returned phone calls and emails seeking comment.

But in a brief phone interview with KCUR, Finley said he was "not aware" of the ordinance. He said he'll look at the proposal and then see "if I have an opinion on it."

Whatever happens with the proposed county ordinance, Finley will continue to draw his pension from his time on Kansas City Council. Finley started receiving his city pension in August 2009 and currently makes $1,122, according to city records. That includes a $200 health subsidy.

Correction: The county and city pension amounts for Ron Finley were reversed in the original story.

Sam Zeff is KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff