Domestic Relations Judge David Lewandowski has told Lucas County elections officials he intends to retire this year to collect his pension and then go back on the public payroll in January if he wins re-election in November.
Judge David Lewandowski, Lucas County Domestic Court
In a letter submitted with his petition for re-election to a six-year term, Judge Lewandowski, 66, notified the board of elections of his plans to temporarily "retire" and return to the bench in January when his new term would begin, allowing him to draw his $145,000 annual salary plus his pension benefits.
The disclosure satisfies a state law that requires an elected official to notify through the elections board an intent to retire 90 days prior to a primary election.
The maneuver of simultaneously drawing a taxpayer funded salary while collecting a public pension is often referred to as "double-dipping."
A Common Pleas judge since 1993, Judge Lewandowski has a clear path for re-election to a fifth consecutive term. He is running unopposed in the May 8 Republican primary, and no Democrat filed petitions to run for the judgeship to oppose him in the November election.
He said he understands the political fallout that could come with his decision to "double-dip." However, he said after talking it over with his wife they decided he has not reached the point in life where he is ready to retire or move into another career.
"I almost retired six years ago. My wife and I discussed it. I think she is right. I really don't want to be a [visiting judge]. When I am done with this, I am going to be done with this," he said. "I feel good. I like what I do."
Judge Lewandowski, who has more than 40 years in public service, said he has submitted some documents required for receiving pension benefits, but he doesn’t know yet what his annual pension payment will be.
He was the county auditor from 1983 to 1993, when he was appointed by then Gov. George Voinovich to a vacancy in the domestic relations court. He began his career with the county in 1976 when he was appointed to the Board of Elections. He later became the elections board director.
Although legal, the practice of double-dipping has faced ongoing criticism, with some government watchdog groups questioning why some state workers can return to public service after they retire.
Legislation to close the double-dipping loophole has been proposed in the past but failed to gain enough traction for passage.
State Rep. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati) recently filed a letter with the Hamilton County elections board announcing his intention to retire this year and collect his pension if he wins re-election in November to another term in the Ohio House. Mr. Seitz, 63, has been a representative and senator in the Ohio General Assembly since 2000 and earlier served as a board of education member and township trustee.
Locally, judges and other elected and non-elected officials have used the early retirement loophole in the state law to simultaneously draw salaries and pensions for the same job.
Lucas County Probate Judge Jack Puffenberger, at age 50, announced his double-dip plans in 2002 in advance of his re-election bid. He survived a challenge in the November election from Republican opponent Tim Kuhlman, who entered the race as a write-in candidate.
Dean Sparks, former executive director of Lucas County Children Services, retired on March 31, 2014, to collect his $70,000 annual pension and returned the next day to his old job at an $11,000 pay cut. He remained with the agency for five months. Subsequently, voters failed to approve the agency's request for a 1.75-mill property tax in the November election.
Contact Mark Reiter at: email@example.com or 419-724-6199
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