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Lansing subsidizes second careers for police and firefighters

November 18, 2014

 

Earlier this month, Lansing's assistant fire chief Trent Atkins accepted the newly-created position of Emergency Operations Manager at the Board of Water and Light. His salary will be $130,000. He was 9 months short of the 25 years needed by police and firefighters to qualify for a City of Lansing pension, so he purchased them. His pension will be at least $64,000 for a total gross income of $194,000.

 

Atkins is 45 years old, and he is not the first to retire at that age.

 

The City of Lansing practically pushes its police and firefighters out the door after 25 years. Twenty-five years is all it takes to qualify for a pension, and additional years don't increase the pension amount. Police and firefighters rarely stay beyond 25 years (see list of retirees since 2010 here), and since they can purchase up to 5 years of service, many leave earlier.

 

Since public safety jobs don't require a 4-year degree, police and firefighters can start young and retire early.

 

So what do you do when you retire before age 50? You get another job. Occasionally, we hear about those new jobs in the news. Otherwise, we'd know nothing of them. Here are some I've become aware of over the years:

 

 

Pension

 

New

Salary

 

Total

 

 
  • Mark Alley, Lansing's former chief of police, retired in March of 2010 to take a job as senior director of risk management for Emergent BioSolutions Inc. in Lansing. Since Emergent is not a public agency, they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and not likely to volunteer his new salary. We can only imagine. But we do know that his pension from the City is $90,356. Alley retired at age 48. He had only 24 years and one month of service, so he purchased another 11 months at a cost of $107,812.

 

$90,356

unknown

unknown

 
  • Police Lieutenant Bruce Ferguson retired in 2010 at age 50 with a $66,507 pension. In January 2013, he became chief of police for the City of DeWitt at a salary of $65,000. (Lansing State Journal, 1/26/2013)
  $66,507 $65,000 $131,507  
  • David Ford and Walter Holden retired from the Fire Department in June 2010 to run First Due Fire Supply in Mason - established April 2007. Ford's pension is $70,356 and Holden's is $62,288. Employees also include Lansing firefighter Chris Wheeler and duty disability retiree Dan Hamel (retired 7/20/2010, pension $45,560). Ford and Holden later sold the company to Hamel and are "working on some other ventures."

 

$70,356

$62,288

$45,560

unknown

unknown

unknown

unknown

unknown

unknown

 

 
  • State Rep. Tom Cochran, D-Mason, retired as Lansing's fire chief in January, 2012 at age 58. He receives a pension of approximately $77,000 from the City to supplement his $71,685 salary as a state representative.
  $77,000 $71,685 $148,685  
  • Lansing police captain Ray Hall retired in February 2012 at age 49 to take a job with University of Michigan-Flint as chief of police. His new salary is $103,000, according to this response to my FOIA request. His City of Lansing pension is $73,178. He was 16 months shy of the 25 years needed to qualify for a pension, so he purchased 16 months.
  $73,178 $103,000 $176,178  
  • In July 2013, former Lansing police chief Teresa Szymanski landed a job as the Lansing School District's chief operations officer. She retired from the Lansing police force on April 19, 2013 at age 50, with 26 years of service. Her salary on her new job is $120,000. Her annual pension from Lansing's Police and Fire Retirement System is about $90,000, based on what her predecessor Mark Alley got when he retired in March 2010.
  $90,000 $120,000 $210,000  
  • In February 2014, Lieutenant Noel Garcia retired from the Lansing Police Department after 24 years (LSJ, 2/28/2014). He immediately took a job as law enforcement instructor for the Lansing Area School District at a salary of $62,631. His pension is approximately $60,000.

 

$60,000

$62,631

$122,631

 

  • In November 2014, at age 45, assistant fire chief Trent Atkins accepted the new position of Emergency Operations Manager at the Board of Water and Light. His salary will be $130,000. He was 9 months short of the 25 years needed to qualify for a City of Lansing pension, so he purchased them. His pension will be at least $64,000.

 

$64,000

$130,000

$194,000

 

The City also provides health and dental insurance to retirees, their spouses and minor children.

 

Send comments to stevenrharry@gmail.com.

 

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