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  • Council resolves squabble with ex-manager

    first_imgWhen Hawthorne’s former City Manager Richard Prentice retired last year, he gave up the liberal benefits he was entitled to as a 38-year veteran police officer. Now he wants them back. This summer, Prentice threatened to sue the city if he couldn’t get lifetime medical benefits for his wife, to which she would have been entitled had Prentice retired as a police officer. The city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on medical benefits for retired police officers and their spouses, but wives of retired city executives don’t qualify for that perk. Last week, however, the City Council voted 3-1 to pay the health insurance premium for Prentice’s wife. Councilman Gary Parsons, the lone dissenting vote, said he believes the city should fight Prentice’s claim. “I feel this is a gift of funds,” Parsons said. “He made bad judgments by becoming a full-time city manager, and if he wanted to keep his wife’s lifetime medical, he should have stayed retired.” Retired officers receive benefits for their spouses through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. But Cal- PERS refused to give Prentice that compensation because he retired as a city manager. However, City Attorney Glen Shishido said he consulted a legal expert, who said the city has a basis to approve the claim. Shishido said the settlement would include a release from any future lawsuit from Prentice. “You’ve got a legitimate basis for approving the claim, subject to a settlement agreement,” Shishido told the council. “Any police manager will have that benefit. Mr. Prentice is saying he’s entitled to that benefit, too.” Councilwoman Ginny Lambert said a technicality separates Prentice from receiving the benefits. “The people know Mr. Prentice, and he served 38 years as one of our best cops,” Lambert said. Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman of the Public Integrity Division said the city could have a strong argument if it fought Prentice’s claim. “The Constitution does have a provision that you cannot retroactively give benefits to somebody after the contract is complete,” Huntsman said. Prentice’s two-year tenure as city manager was complicated by his refusal to retire while he worked full time. He was hired in 2004 without having any practical knowledge of running a city, though he had an extensive background in public safety. He had just retired as a captain from the Hawthorne Police Department, and was drawing more than $7,000 a month in state pension checks. CalPERS allowed him to do that for the first year, as long as he agreed to work only a maximum of 960 hours. He said that he would work about 20 hours a week for an hourly rate of $62.50, and that he would donate his time for any work that exceeded those hours. A few months later his hourly rate was raised to $90 an hour. The pay hike increased suspicions about Prentice working full time, and that the city was skirting regulations to compensate him. In 2006, he was forced to reimburse one year of retirement pay – about $90,000. He retired that year, and moved to Utah. “Because of the number of hours he worked, he had to be reinstated for that time period,” CalPERS spokesman Edward Fong said. [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! HAWTHORNE: Prentice will receive health-care benefits for his wife after 3-1 vote. By Sandy Mazza STAFF WRITER last_img read more

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