The Real Reason Swallow is Resigning in December - Retirement Money

Written by Bob Bernick on . Posted in Today At Utah Policy

If you found it odd that soon-to-be former GOP Attorney General John Swallow dated his resignation letter Dec. 3 at 12:01 a.m., there’s a good reason for it.

At least a good reason for Swallow.

 

Leaving after exactly four years of state executive full-time employment, his Dec. 3 resignation means Swallow is vested in the state’s retirement program.

That’s right. Swallow will get state retirement – the amount yet unknown.

But if he had left last week – when he made his resignation announcement and held an emotional press conference -- or over the Thanksgiving holiday week, he wouldn’t have qualified for state retirement, state Human Resource Department officials confirmed to UtahPolicy.

There are no doubt those who would say seeing the behind of Swallow is well worth any amount of retirement that the state may pay out to him.

Others may find his final act in state employment – his resignation date – galling.

Kind of a “here’s to you folks” salute as he goes out the door.

Swallow was hired by then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff – the two have quite a history together – as his chief deputy on Dec. 1, 2009.

The state retirement system vests full time employees on their four-year employment anniversary. That would be Dec. 2, 2013.

Swallow is leaving one minute after that date.

One wouldn’t want to cut it too close.

Swallow’s hire date is actually important for other reasons.

His attorney argued that possible impeachment proceedings by the Utah House could only include his time actually in elective office, starting Jan. 1 of this year.

A new Elections Office investigation finds Swallow guilty of five violations of campaign finance reporting law – filings he made in the spring of 2012.

Any previous work for the state wouldn’t count under impeachment timelines, the attorney said.

Others argued that the House could investigation Swallow after he came to work for Shurtleff as his top aide – the Dec. 1, 2009 date.

While many House members say that the Legislature can investigate anyone, anytime.

So the House’s special Swallow investigation committee could look at Swallow’s actions starting way back in 2008, when he was Shurtleff’s chief fund raiser.

In any case, Swallow’s official departure on Dec. 3 at 12:01 a.m. means that Swallow will get state retirement.

State retirement is based on salary earned and time employed.

For the three years Swallow was chief deputy AG he was paid around $150,000 a year. His total compensation, including health care, retirement deductions and such, according to this public employee salary web site, was nearly $210,000 a year.

As attorney general, Swallow actually took a pay cut.

The AG’s salary is set in statute, 90 percent of the governor’s pay, which is adopted by the Legislature.

Swallow is making about $146,000 as the attorney general.

Swallow was also a Utah House member from 1997 to 2003.

A lawmaker vests in the Legislature’s retirement program – separate from the state’s executive pension plan – also after four years of service.

So Swallow will be getting a small retirement from the Legislature as well. (Lawmakers are part-time employees and their retirement, unless one serves a very long time, is not great.)

The state’s executive retirement plan was changed several years ago and is complicated to figure out.

In addition, an individual’s retirement is not public information, and is handled by the State Retirement Office.

Thus, UtahPolicy is not able to figure out what Swallow will be getting in retirement when he finally takes it.

But by resigning on Dec. 3 instead of a few days earlier, Swallow will be getting some state pension payments.

Swallow told KSL Radio’s Doug Wright on Friday that he’s taking a vacation with his family starting last weekend.

No doubt he needs it, after all that he’s been through recently.

The attorney general has no vacation time – like other elected state leaders he is paid a flat annual salary and can work, or not work, as he sees fit.