Newly nominated Fire Chief John Fruetel is an experienced hand when it comes to double-dipping -- the fully legal practice of collecting both a pension and a public paycheck.
He's been collecting a firefighter's pension of more than $41,000, but that jumped on Jan. 1 to almost $50,000 under the July law that merges the city's closed fire pension fund into a statewide pension fund. That pension was earned during his 31-year career with the fire department. He retired from the department in 2010 and moved to an emergency preparedness job with the city. That allows him to accrue a second pension under the statewide Public Employees Retirement Association, into whose public safety pension fund the old fire plan merged. He can continue to accrue credit toward that second pension as fire chief.
The merger terms boost Fruetel's current pension to $63,000 by 2015. His salary as fire chief hasn't been released, but he was paid about $99,000 in his post-retirement emergency preparedness job. Jackson was paid about $122,000 as chief. Jackson will be eligible for a pension of about $105,000 once he retires next month after 31 years.
The difference between what Fruetel accrued under the old pension plan and Jackson gets reflects the 20-month difference in their hiring dates. Fruetel was hired under the old city pension plan that featured a one-size-fits-all pension regardless of rank. But Jackson was hired five months after a 1980 change in state law that put all subsequent hires into the statewide public safety plan, in which pensions are determined both by years on the job and the highest five years of salary.
So Jackson gets a higher pension than Fruetel even though Fruetel served longer. Had Fruetel's current pension been earned under PERA, rather than the old pension plan, it would have been suspended once he hit the Social Security earnings limit of $14,640 annually.