Pension rule sidelines Overman
By Jon Hawley
Saturday, January 19, 2019
If you didn’t see Pasquotank Commissioner Barry Overman at this week’s county commissioners meeting, it was because he had a good reason for not being there.
Overman, who was just sworn in last month for a four-year term, isn’t working as a commissioner this month because he’s been advised it could negatively affect his state retirement.
Overman’s last day as a deputy chief for the Elizabeth City Fire Department was Dec. 31, and he paid into the state’s Local Governmental Employees Retirement System, or LGERS, for his pension.
However, as an apparent precaution against government employees claiming retirement while still drawing a state salary, LGERS requires retirees “perform no work for a participating LGERS employer … at any time during the same month immediately following the first day of retirement,” according to LGERS handbook, which is available online. North Carolina’s county employees are also LGERS members.
Overman’s first day as a city retiree was Jan. 1 — meaning it was acceptable for him to be sworn in and attend meetings last month. However, he said Wednesday that a state official advised him not to work as a commissioner this month. That means he didn’t attend Monday’s commissioner meetings, and is also limiting his official activity, including responding to constituent emails.
Overman said he’s still staying abreast of county business, and will resume his duties next month.
“Feb. 1, I’m back online,” Overman said.
That will also allow him to attend commissioners’ retreat on Feb. 28 and March 1. Commissioners plan to discuss and set long-term goals at the retreat.
County Clerk Lynn Scott also reported Wednesday that, at his request, the county will not pay Overman this month.
Commissioners are paid $600 a month, with the chairman getting $700. Commissioners are also paid $25 per meeting for certain committees, including Central Communications, of which Overman is a member.
Scott also noted that commissioners are not eligible to be members of the Local Government Employees Retirement System. That means Overman’s term as commissioner will not increase his pension.
Overman said the situation is frustrating, though he said he’s lucky he was not a teacher. He’d have to wait six months before serving, in that case, he said.
Notably, if Overman follows the state’s rules, he will still get his pension this month. The end result is the state saves no money, but Overman’s constituents — he holds one of three at-large seats on the commission board — will have only two representatives until February.
Overman said the state official he spoke with agreed the state should look at flexibility in cases like his, but he said he’s following the rules as they are.
According to the LGERS handbook, a retiree who returns to work for an LGERS-contributing employer in the same month can face financial penalties and see their pension payments postponed until they satisfy the one-month requirement.