I would like to give you some facts about the LEOFF 1 retirement system and its benefits.
LEOFF stands for Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters. LEOFF 1 was phased out in 1977 and anyone hired after 1977 is in the LEOFF 2 system. The benefits are very different between the two.
During LEOFF 1 members' careers, the employer, the state and the employee all make contributions to the employee's retirement fund. As it should be, the employee makes the largest contribution to this fund. The fund is held in a trust with all other LEOFF 1 members' funds and is managed by the state.
When a LEOFF 1 member is no longer employed or retires the employer, the state and the member stop making contributions. The funds in the trust belong to the LEOFF 1 system and are used to provide benefits to retirees. It has been very well managed, closely monitored and is more than fully funded.
When Chief Fulton retired the taxpayers were no longer, as you put it, on the hook for any money on his behalf. The state will not be shelling out tens of thousands of dollars in the future. Chief Fulton's as well as all other LEOFF 1 retirees benefits come from the LEOFF 1 trust fund not the state's funds.
As for what the City Council did, looks to me like it was trying to right a wrong. How would you feel if after 40-plus years of loyal service a newly hired person was put in your position and paid more money.
The Department of Retirement Services will not give a final retirement benefit amount to the retiree or the municipality until it has the retirement papers in hand and the final paycheck is issued. It may give you an estimate of what might happen but it will not commit. The city manager gave that information to the Council.
Did the Council use poor judgment?
In this case, no harm no foul. For sure the Our Opinion writer in the May 1 issue used poor judgement in not using the facts.
I applaud Chief Fulton for his many years of dedicated and loyal service to this community, period!