Retirement Director explains Police Chief's decision to step down

Columbia,SC (WACH)--The city of Columbia promoted Ruben Santiago as the city's Interim Police Chief Monday.

The announcement comes two days after former Chief Randy Scott announced that he was retiring. Scott said the decision was based on new changes to the South Carolina Police Retirement System that will limit financial earnings for state retirees effective January 2, 2013. Scott can reapply for the position after a 15 day mandatory leave of absence. It is a similar process Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins went through earlier in 2012.

State Retirement Services Director David Avant said it is very common.

"The law as it exists now would allow a person who is retired and receiving a retirement benefit, would allow that person to be re-hired by a covered employer like a city," Avant said. "There would be no limitation on their retirement benefit. They can earn as much as they want to. And they would receive a retirement benefit."

Governor Nikki Haley signed Act 278 into law back in July. The measure goes into effect Wednesday; and increases retirement eligibility service from 25 years to 27 years.

"They can retire, receive a benefit but still keep working," Avant said. That was the whole point of changing the law; try to influence behavior such that you have people retiring when they are ready to quit work, rather than when they get to a certain age."

The law is intended as a money saving measure as the state deals with a roughly $14 billion retirement system deficit. Avant said if an employee retires and is re-hired by a covered employer, their retirement benefit stops if their salary reaches $10,000.

"So if somebody made $120,000 a year, $10,000 a month, their salary would be $10,000. Their retirement benefit would be cut off for the rest of the year."

A system that Scott said is forcing him to step aside for now.