Tuesday 25 July 2017

County manager stands down with €335,000 pension windfall

Anne-Marie Walsh and Mark Hilliard

A COUNTY manager has retired with a €334,462 package after working in the position for just seven years.

And the Irish Independent has learned that three other local authority chiefs are in line for similar bumper payouts next year.

Waterford county manager Ray O'Dwyer retired in September with the controversial perks in advance of government attempts to abolish them.

His exit deal included special terms that are only given to county managers and secretary generals of government departments.

The special deal means that he gets pension benefits for years he did not work. In this case, he was given eight years of additional benefits to bring his years of public service to 40 when he actually worked 32 years. His payout includes:

•A severance payment of €66,255, which is based on half pay.

•A gross pension lump sum of €204,871 -- which was boosted by the extra eight years of service -- of which €200,000 is tax-free.

•An annual pension of €63,335, which was also boosted by the added years of service.

The pension can be drawn down straight away, even before the official retirement age in the public sector of 60.

Originally from Cork but living in Waterford for more than 20 years, Mr O'Dwyer was appointed county manager in 2004 and undertook his last meeting as principal officer there last September.

Details of Mr O'Dwyer's exit deal emerged after the Government last week axed the additional severance payment and extra-year perks for civil servants who become the heads of state departments.

Outrage

This followed outrage when former secretary general Dermot McCarthy retired earlier this year with a €713,000 deal.

The Government has promised to reform the same entitlements for county managers.

But the measures are unlikely to affect existing county managers who were appointed on the old terms. This includes three county managers whose contracts are due to run out next year.

They are still set to get the perks, although their pensions will be reduced if they retire after February, when pensions will be based on wages after pay cuts. However, they can still qualify for added years of service.

Interim Waterford county manager Denis McCarthy told the Irish Independent that future appointees would have to accept their fate.

"It's a political decision, and we'll have to abide by whatever is legislated for us," he said.

Contacted by the Irish Independent last night, Mr O'Dwyer's wife Ann said: "I think that is his own business and there is no comment."

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Phil Hogan said he had no intention of appointing anyone to four existing interim county manager roles until he drew up reform plans.

However, it may be far more difficult to amend the terms for county managers than it was for secretary generals, as it will require legislative change.

The perks for secretary generals were axed because they were originally given as part of a government decision and were not set in legislation.

Although future appointees as secretary generals will no longer get the terms, they are guaranteed jobs when their seven-year contracts expire on the same pay and conditions.

However, a similar deal to cut perks for county managers will be difficult because their payment deal is set out in a section of local government legislation.

Irish Independent

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