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Sylvania Councilman Mark Luetke resigned from council on Monday so he can collect state health care benefits, but he asked to be quickly reappointed to his council position to finish his term of office.
His retirement from council makes him eligible for state coverage which would not have been possible if he worked into next year, but his letter to council asked that he be reappointed to his council post soon. His request is expected to be reviewed by council at its 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7 meeting.
Mr. Luetke turns 65 in December and by year's end will have 10½ years in public service credited towards eligibility for Ohio Public Employees Retirement System 's health and retirement benefits. The state pension program has changed benefits, requiring 20 years of public service to be eligible for health care benefits after Jan. 1. If Mr. Luetke doesn't retire this year, he would not receive those benefits unless he served another 9½ years in public service. eligibility requirements to 20 years of public service from 10 effective January 1.
In a letter addressed to council, dated on Monday, Mr. Luetke said that because of his age, time in public office, and expectation that he will not remain in public service for another 10 years, he decided to retire this year to allow him to receive the health care benefits. Those state benefits will supplement his federal Medicare health-care coverage.
“I would need to resign my council seat prior to the new provisions taking effect,” he said. "Yet, I believe the electors of the City of Sylvania voted in November of 2011 with an expectation that I would serve a full term through 2015. I would like to honor that commitment."
Mary Westphal, chairman of the City Council, said she supports and expects other council members will support Mr. Luetke's reappointment. She called him a valuable member of council and said she understands the reason for his decision.
Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Luetke said he announced his decision to be upfront about his actions and the benefits he will receive.
He told The Blade he had legal counsel review his actions. His lawyer, David Mann of Marshall & Melhourn, received a letter from the state pension program confirming his proposed plan of action is legal, he said.
“This is important because of the health care coverage for my wife and I. It would be a substantial expense, if I wasn’t able to integrate my Medicare with my OPERS coverage,” he said.
The state pension program would cover health treatment not covered by Medicare, he said. The state coverage includes doctor's visits, prescription drugs, and co-pays for hospital and doctor projects.
Mr. Luetke said that, if he is reappointed to council, he will donate his pension from OPERS to Sylvania charities and other charitable organizations. He expects that to amount to less than $2,000 a year.
The council voted in August to increase its own pay by $132 a month, bringing each member's annual compensation to the level needed in the state pension program next year to qualify for retiree health care. Ms. Westphal, whose position is up for election in November, is one of the council members who will benefit by the pay increase, which she voted to implement. .
Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.