Publisher’s Note: The Retirement Conundrum

An article in the Virginian-Pilot (see Rowe May Have Improperly Received Retirement Benefits) explaining a controversy involving former City Manager John Rowe has raised questions for me about the salary and benefit costs for the current manager, as well. In the case of Mr. Rowe, when he was most recently employed by the city, he appears simultaneously to have collected Virginia Retirement System benefits, something not permitted under IRS regulations. A decision by VRS officials on what needs to happen to square the ledger is pending.

To the best of my knowledge, City Manager Patton is not drawing VRS benefits at this time. Based on the Virginian-Pilot story on Dr. Patton’s compensation package from last fall (see New Portsmouth Officials Receiving More Benefits), though, I am concerned about whether or not the manager and the city are currently paying into the Virginia Retirement System on her behalf. Her compensation package includes “a base salary of $150,000, a city-provided vehicle or $9,600 annual car allowance, up to $3,600 in general expenses and a $50,000 annual lump payment into a defined contribution retirement plan.” The Rowe article, though, refers to the Portsmouth city manager position as a “full-time VRS-covered position” — a crucial factor in the determination of whether Mr. Rowe’s dual payments during his tenure in the position were permissible. If the VRS determines that Portsmouth is liable for unpaid contributions on Mr. Rowe’s behalf, would the city not also have to make payments on Dr. Patton’s, the defined contribution plan notwithstanding? Perhaps it is already making those payments, in which case the citizens should be apprised of how much that adds to the manager’s compensation package. Otherwise, someone needs to take ownership of having missed the boat for a second time.

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