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Sylvania: Rehiring of official who retired for benefits is legal

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Mark Luetke retired Sept. 30 from Sylvania City Council to remain eligible for the state pension health-care program.

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Corrected version: Doug Haynam's comment about nominating a replacement for Mark Luetke has been reworded.

Sylvania City Councilman Mark Luetke’s resignation followed by an immediate request for reappointment — a step taken to collect a state pension program’s health-care benefits — are within the legal guidelines of the city’s charter, the city law director has confirmed.

“Council has the authority to make an appointment,” Law Director Jim Moan said. He explained that the charter guidelines regarding filling a City Council vacancy permit members 30 days to make an appointment. If that time limit is not met, the reappointment authority passes to the mayor, he said.

Council is expected to vote on Mr. Luetke’s reappointment request when it meets today at 7:30 p.m.

Mr. Luetke retired Sept. 30 to remain eligible for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System’s health and retirement benefits.

The state pension program has changed benefits-eligibility requirements from 10 years of public service to 20. Mr. Luetke, who now has 10½ years in public-service credit but turns 65 in December, said he does not intend to hold public office for 10 more years.

He asked council to reappoint him to the seat so he can complete his current four-year term, which expires at the end of 2015. He is paid $868 a month as a councilman.

Mr. Moan said the city’s charter, ratified in 1961, does not require council to advertise the seat or hold a special election, nor does it mention restrictions related to the remainder of a term.

Matt McClellan, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, said the process of handling reappointment is a local issue. Mr. Luetke’s attorney, David Mann of Marshall & Melhourn, confirmed that he received a letter from an OPERS official saying Mr. Luetke’s proposed plan of action was legal.

Councilman Katie Cappellini agreed with Mr. Moan that council has typically made its own appointments to fill vacancies.

“Usually if someone resigns, it is because they are moving. We put an ad in the paper, and someone steps up to be appointed. But that doesn’t seem fair [in this case] because we don’t think at this point anyone would be as good as Mark. It really is a just a formality,” she said.

Mrs. Cappellini expects members will vote in favor of the request because of the skills Mr. Luetke brings to the table.

“He is solid,” she said, adding that teachers in the public retirement system are also trying to adjust to the new pension requirements and figure out what is best for them.

Councilman Doug Haynam, also ward chair for Sylvania’s Republican Party central committee, said there is no plan to seek a Republican replacement for Mr. Luetke.

Although council elections are nonpartisan, it is known that he and Mr. Luetke stand on opposite ends of Sylvania’s political spectrum. However, Mr. Haynam said they have worked jointly on issues for the betterment of the community.

“I don’t think Mark ought to be penalized for the change in the law, and he is well-qualified. The voters elected him to serve a term,” Mr. Haynam said.

Although Mayor Craig Stough is not expected to vote on the matter, he echoed council members’ opinion about Mr. Luetke.

“He has been an active member of City Council. I would hate to lose him,” Mayor Stough said.

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