Deputy fire chief takes Florida job but cuts D.C. pension deal
Update 3:41 p.m.: Fire Department spokesman Pete Piringer confirmed that Ellerbe went on leave without pay August 31. According to this Florida news report, Ellerbe joined the Sarasota department July 20.
Original post: A D.C. deputy fire chief who is nearing the age when certain pension benefits will kick in remains on the District's employment rolls, despite having taken over as the head of a Florida fire department this summer.
Kenneth Ellerbe, who has served the District since 1982, has been placed on leave without pay in Washington, and is now chief of the Sarasota County Fire Department, according to local officials and the county's Web site. (Here he is giving holiday season ladder safety tips to Floridians.)
The Washington Times reported today that the arrangement appears to be aimed at allowing Ellerbe to reach age 50 before retiring from the District's department in order to receive pension money more quickly.
Ellerbe meets the years-of-service requirement for retirement -- 25 years
-- but is one year shy of the age requirement, according to the city's retirement guidelines.
If Ellerbe retires before reaching 50, he would have to wait until he was
55 to begin collecting the benefits. Records show Ellerbe's current annual salary is close to $150,000, and the maximum allowed for pensions is 80 percent of the employee's annual pay, according to the city's retirement guidelines for firefighters.
Ellerbe did not immediately return calls for comment.
The Washington Times reported that D.C. Fire Department spokesman Pete Piringer confirmed that the arrangement was made to allow Ellerbe to receive pension checks earlier.
On Monday, however, Piringer said he believed that was the case, but was not certain, and referred a Post reporter to the city's human resources department for an official explanation.
"Apparently he had the number of years in, but not the age," Piringer told the Post. "Generally speaking, I would think it doesn't happen that often. Do the math -- there's probably not that many people in a position to retire or leave that have the years of service but not the age."
An HR spokesman, Andrew Gerst, confirmed Ellerbe's status but said the Post would have to file a Freedom of Information Act request for additional information.
Ellerbe was hired by the city in April 1982. April will mark his 28th year of service, as well as his 50th birthday.
-- Jonathan Mummolo
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