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County attorney: No benefit to Krakeel to retire early

Even if County Administrator Jack Krakeel chose to retire without using the early retirement plan offered by Fayette County, he would still be eligible to draw an unreduced monthly benefit from the county’s defined benefits pension plan, according to Fayette County Attorney Scott Bennett.

Krakeel has been with the county some 28 years, so he would not benefit from the extra credit of 5 years of service being offered to county employees under the early retirement program, Bennett told the Fayette County Commission last week.

Despite that information, County Commissioner Steve Brown called for an independent investigation into the creation of the early retirement fund “to determine the true longterm savings of the program.”

A vote on the matter fell flat on a 2-2 tie, with Brown joined by Commissioner Allen McCarty in favor and Commissioners Lee Hearn and Robert Horgan voting against. That means the matter will likely be voted on at a future meeting when Commission Chairman Herb Frady would be present.

Previously, Brown has accused Krakeel of concocting the early retirement package to benefit himself. Brown, however, has had no facts to support the allegation. Instead Brown has said he is suspicious of the fact that Krakeel developed the early retirement plan and then decided later to take advantage of it.

When Krakeel announced the details of the early retirement plan at the county retreat, Brown did not inquire whether Krakeel himself would take advantage of the program, despite Krakeel’s 28 years of service to the county.

Brown was initially scheduled to petition for an investigation of Krakeel’s role in creating the plan, but he changed his tune last Thursday, instead calling for a probe into the early retirement plan in general. Brown joined the commission in a unanimous 5-0 vote two months ago to approve offering the retirement plan as a potential significant cost savings to future county budgets.

The early retirement plan, has been touted as having the potential to save the county more than $1.6 million in salary annually should all 44 eligible employees elect to take the offer.

The early retirement package is being offered to employees age 55 and over who have more than 20 years of service to the county.

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.

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.

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