After having three police chiefs retire in less than five years, the City of Omaha is in a position to get at least nine years of service from its next police chief before a full pension kicks in.
It will be 2021 before either internal candidate qualifies for a full pension, according to the city — and the two external candidates would have to ride it out for three decades.
The soonest either internal candidate could draw any check from the pension fund is 2016, when Capt. Greg Gonzalez would be eligible, said Stephanie Unger, the city's benefits manager.
Deputy Chief Todd Schmaderer would follow in 2017. That's the year when retired Stockton, Calif., Chief Blair Ulring and Chief Christopher Domagalski of Sheboygan, Wis., would become eligible for any Omaha pension, and only $15,000 at that.
The past three Omaha chiefs — Alex Hayes, Eric Buske and Tom Warren — all retired after long careers capped by short stints as chief, and each is drawing an annual pension of more than $100,000.
Warren spent nearly five years in the position. Hayes spent a little over two years, while Buske held the job only 13 months.
All were promoted from within the department. Because pension payments are calculated largely based on years of service and highest earnings, internal promotions to the post can qualify for large pensions.
Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle has said he'd like to see the next police chief end the slew of short tenures.
“I can't help but think that's going to impact the mayor's final decision,” said Aida Amoura, Suttle's spokeswoman.
Both internal candidates could leave ahead of schedule. Doing so would reduce pension payments significantly, although both Schmaderer and Gonzalez would get pension increases for unused annual leave and credit for overtime during the course of their careers.
The external candidates, meanwhile, would have to stay in the role at least five years before they could receive pension payments of 10 percent, or around $15,000 a year, assuming the contract doesn't change. As new police managers, they would not receive payments for overtime.
If either outside candidate stayed for 10 years, the regular payout rates for police management would begin to apply, said Dick O'Gara, Omaha's human resources director.
While the mayor could select from the finalists himself, he has opted to get the opinion of a panel of six community members first, O'Gara said.
The finalists will each have separate, hourlong interviews with both the mayor and the panel in the coming weeks.
A selection is expected in August.
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