- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I read with considerable interest of the situation in the District, where, according to The Washington Times, a deputy fire chief named Kenneth Ellerbe “was placed on leave-without-pay status … so he could stay on the department’s books after he took a job as a fire chief in Florida” (“D.C. Council member to investigate fire deputy’s pension arrangement,” Page 1, Friday).

By being kept on the books, he could take his pension at age 50 rather than having to wait until he turns 55. In other words, this “arrangement” enables him to collect an extra five years of retirement pay, courtesy of D.C. taxpayers. Moreover, his pension is not unsubstantial.

This reminds me of a similar case in Baltimore. In both instances, unnamed “officials” got “creative” with pension funds. However, the $600,000 windfall figure assigned to the fire chief pales in comparison to the Baltimore case, which involved as much as $2 million. The benefactor of that sum also took another job, this one a very lucrative position with the state of Maryland. In the Baltimore case, a high-ranking police official, with the complicity of now-convicted Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and current Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, was awarded a substantial pension that he neither earned nor was entitled to.

Both of these cases are offensive to the senses.

Many threads of commonality lace these two cases together, but the most disheartening thing they share is that no responsible investigative law enforcement entity will even bother to investigate. They are supposed to involve themselves in cases of political corruption, about which they seem to know little.

Who, after all, is harmed by all of this? Only the taxpayers and their retired police and fire officers. If you can’t steal from the taxpayers and their retired police officers and firemen, from whom can you steal?

ROBERT L. DI STEFANO

Major (retired)

Baltimore City Police Department

Abingdon, Md.

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