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Chief Ellerbe, who began his tenure with the fire department in April 1982, falls under the second tier, which requires members to be at least age 50 and have at least 25 years of service to begin collecting retirement benefits immediately upon leaving the department.

The arrangement would have allowed Chief Ellerbe, whose salary was $149,892 this year and last year, to collect up to 80 percent of his final salary, or almost $600,000, over the five years until he turns 55.