Mayoral pension rescinded?

Published 3:58pm Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Atmore City Council on Monday rescinded an eight-year-old ordinance that allows pension benefits for certain former mayors — or did they?

At their regular meeting, council members voted to rescind ordinance 05-2004 (which is printed in its entirety on page 3 of this edition). But the correct process for rescinding a municipal ordinance would be to pass another ordinance stating the previous one is rescinded, legal experts said.

The 2004 ordinance allows for individuals who have served as Atmore’s mayor for at least 16 years and are a minimum of 70 years of age to be paid a monthly retirement — or “deferred compensation” — benefit by the city — criteria recently retired mayor Howard Shell met. But a new ordinance was not passed Monday to officially complete the process of rescinding the ordinance.

When a new ordinance is introduced, it must be read first and then voted at a second meeting, unless the council members vote unanimously for immediate consideration.

The 2004 ordinance called for a pension formula of .5 percent multiplied by the number of months served multiplied by the mayor’s salary at the time of retirement.

That would have meant Shell, who in 2010 reduced his salary from $35,000 to $25,000 in what he said at the time was an effort to be “cost efficient,” would have made $36,000 annually in retirement.

Had he not reduced his salary in 2010, Shell would have essentially received a bigger raise in retirement, with his $35,000 multiplied by 1.44.

As for the reason behind rescinding the ordinance, Atmore Mayor Jim Staff, who was member of the city council that signed the item into law, said the city simply needs to use the money elsewhere.

“This is money that comes from the general fund and from the city,” Staff said. “We just have other places we need to use it.”
Staff also pointed to the fact that the money was not part of this year’s budget.

Two years after the 2004 ordinance was approved, Alabama voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing Escambia County mayors and the sheriff to participate in the Employees Retirement Systems of Alabama. The legislation allowing the vote on the amendment was sponsored by the late state Sen. Pat Lindsey at the request of former Brewton Mayor Ted Jennings, who also retired this year, and would allow mayors to receive retirement from the state rather than the cities.

If the council did indeed not follow proper procedure in rescinding the ordinance, a new ordinance would likely need to be introduced at the first council meeting of the new year, which is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 7, 2013.

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