Loophole Probably Cannot Be Closed

When most state employees retire in West Virginia, they are reminded that if they decide to go back on the public payroll it may affect their pension benefits. If, for example, a teacher retires, then is asked to come back to the classroom, any earnings in excess of $15,000 a year reduce his monthly pension check.

But as we have reported, a few people manage to get around the limit. Some have earned tens of thousands of dollars from the state while continuing to collect full pensions.

A report received by state legislators this week reveals dozens of retired public employees got in on the deal last year. They collected more than $1.2 million in pay while receiving full retirement benefits.

According to published reports, at least some of those involved manage to skirt the law by working for the state not as employees but as contractors. That may seem like a fine line, but it probably is legal. The practice also would be difficult to curb.

Think of it this way: A state employee retires and begins collecting his pension. Later, the agency for which he worked needs expertise he happens to possess. Rather than formally hire him, however, they contract with him just as they might with a business. He is paid for services, not as an employee.

Don’t expect the Consolidated Public Retirement Board to change its rules. CPRB officials already have warned legislators about the financial ramifications of doing that.

And don’t expect the thousands of public retirees who have wished they could collect government paychecks and full pensions at the same time to like that. Again, however, there probably is little or nothing the state can do about it.

This is one loophole that, while annoying to some, probably cannot be closed entirely, if at all.