Politics & Government

Vote lets Warner Robins mayor collect his pension

WARNER ROBINS -- Mayor Randy Toms shouldn’t miss out on a day of his city pension just because he’s mayor, the City Council decided Monday night.

Toms wasn't supposed to be getting his pension of about $25,000 per year until the council changed the law Monday. He had been erroneously getting payments that were sent by the city's pension plan administrator, the Georgia Municipal Employees Benefit System.

Monday’s vote cleared up the issue, paving the way for Toms and other early retirees to collect their pensions while serving in elected office. Toms spent 27 years and four months as a city firefighter.

Nearly identical changes were made years ago to allow elected officials who had been city employees -- including former firefighter Mike Davis and former City Clerk Carolyn Robbins -- to collect their pensions while serving in office. City Attorney Jim Elliott told reporters that the earlier rule change allowing elected officials to draw pensions was written only for those with regular retirements. With Monday’s vote, early retirement will now be treated the same way.

Elliott said the pension system’s management proposed the change.

Toms abstained from the vote, as did Councilman Chuck Shaheen, who wanted the measure to apply to pension payments due Monday or later.

The other council members who were present for the vote approved the pension change, which applies to any employee who took early retirement.

“You worked 28 years for it,” Councilman Tim Thomas told the mayor. “You earned this retirement. It’s not ours. It’s yours.”

Councilman Keith Lauritsen was absent during the vote. Elliott said Lauritsen also is looking at what kind of pension that mayors -- who are in a full-time, $100,000-a-year job -- should get for those duties. Mayors and council members now get pensions worth $200 a month at the end of a four-year term, Elliott said.

Separately, council members approved without opposition a rezoning of about 20 acres along Feagin Mill Road near The Tiffany subdivision. The land’s zoning was changed from C-2 and R-4 to R-3, similar to existing subdivisions.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.