County manager to retire early under plan he helped devise
Fayette County Administrator Jack Krakeel announced last week that he intends to retire as of July 1, the date by which a group of long-serving county employees must elect whether to take their enhanced early retirement benefits or remain on staff.
Commissioners lauded Krakeel’s work as being exemplary, and he was asked to stay on past his retirement date to assist the commission in making a transition to the next county administrator.
Krakeel said he was willing to do so, but according to existing law he will have to remain in the same position at the same salary, and he will not be able to draw from his early retirement at the same time he receives a salary from the county.
Several days after Krakeel’s announcement, Commissioner Steve Brown filed a request to have an outside attorney review the matter because of Krakeel’s role in the creation of the early retirement plan, which was touted as having the potential to save the county more than $1.6 million in salary annually.
The early retirement package is being offered to employees age 55 and over who have more than 20 years of service to the county.
Some 44 county employees meet those qualifications for eligibility in the early retirement program.
The county is offering to provide them an unreduced retirement benefit along with credit for an additional five years of service, which would increase their monthly payment under the plan.
The county is also offering a post-retirement health insurance benefit for participants until age 65, but that benefit would be limited to the employee only, not their spouse or immediate family members, according to county documents.
The estimated average increased plan liability is $86,864 per participant, and the county would be paying that contribution into the plan from its cash reserves, officials have said.
The intention is to eliminate most of the positions through the early retirement program, but those which are deemed essential would be re-filled, Krakeel told the commission in late March.
Brown did not share his concerns at the commission’s Thursday meeting after Krakeel made his announcement. Instead he sent an email to county staff early Saturday morning asking for the external probe of the situation to be put on a future commission agenda.
“Your participation has also raised concerns with your transmission of the terms of the early retirement package to certain employees before the BOC (Board of Commissioners) ever had a chance to review, discuss and vote, hence locking the term in,” Brown wrote in the email to Krakeel.
Brown’s email also claimed that Krakeel’s participation in the early retirement offer “came as a surprise.” But Krakeel noted at Thursday’s commission meeting that he had informed each commissioner of his decision in advance of the meeting.
Krakeel said Thursday that he came to his decision to retire early after consulting the matter with his family. He has been employed by the county in various capacities for the past 28 years.
Krakeel served as assistant director and later director of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and in 2003 was named director of Public Safety, which he remained until April 2007 when he was appointed as the interim county administrator before winning the job in November 2008.
Krakeel has steered the county through a series of cost saving measures over the past several years in large part due to the pinch on local property tax revenues from the struggling real estate market.
Krakeel said he is proud of the work he’s been able to accomplish here in his 28 years with the county.
But after speaking with his family, “and much thought and consideration,” Krakeel said he ultimately decided it was the right time to retire.
“I certainly appreciate the confidence the board has had in me my last five years, now starting my sixth year, but I believe that time has come. Thank you very much for the opportunities that have been presented over these 28 years.”
Commissioner Herb Frady said he thought Krakeel has been “very outstanding in everything you’ve ever endeavored to do for the county” including national accolades received by the county fire and emergency services department.
“I’ll say one thing: you are a hard worker, you get the job done and I certainly appreciate it, and I think this board appreciates it, and past boards as well,” Frady said.