Wrong is wrong


Double dipping occurs when a public servant retires from a job with a full pension and then is hired to do another public-sector job — or even to return to the old job — for a second full-time salary. The practice is bad management and bad public policy.

Taxpayers can’t afford it. And it is grossly insensitive in a city and state in which so many people have been devastated by the recession. Most Toledoans are lucky to draw one good salary for their work.

Read more Blade editorials

Ohio needs to change the law that permits double dipping. If the governor and lawmakers won’t take the matter on, Ohio citizens should initiate an effort to amend the state constitution.

The latest example of this practice is Toledo Mayor Mike Bell’s decision to retain Police Chief Derrick Diggs, who “retired” March 21 and was rehired March 25. The deal enables Chief Diggs to collect a $71,000 annual pension and his $102,132 annual salary. (Mr. Bell, a former city fire chief and state fire marshal, is collecting a pension from the Ohio Fire and Police Pension Fund in addition to his mayoral salary).

Mr. Diggs’ total compensation is more than the Toledo City Council likely would want to pay a new chief. That’s not to say the chief hasn’t done a good job; he has, and can be expected to continue to do so.

But no one should be paid twice to do one job. That’s understood in the real world among most working people, and it should apply to public service and government: You retire — you are retired.

The public is paying for that retirement. If you want to keep working, then do that. If you want to retire but volunteer your time, great — the city or state or school district will pay your expenses. But you don’t get paid to succeed yourself.

Toledo is among the poorest cities in the nation. It is unconscionable to allow some public servants to collect so much money when the people they are supposed to serve make so little. Public employees should get a deal that is fair, but not one that is far above the mean for the taxpayers who pay them.

Toledo and Ohio don’t yet face the pension crises that confront cities such as Detroit and states such as Illinois. But double dipping could help take us there.

When the practice occurs in the corporate world, it is usually for only brief transitional periods. Companies that allow it on a long-term basis are not well managed, and the market eventually punishes them. In government, only lawmakers and voters can impose such discipline.

Chief Diggs is a good public servant who is acting fully within the law. But Ohio needs to change the law, and stop paying its public employees twice.