Command Staff Exodus Possible for Baltimore County Fire Department

At least one-third of the department's top commanders could retire by the end of the year.

At least one third of the Baltimore County Fire Department command staff could retire by the end of the year, according to fire Chief John J. Hohman.

Those eligible retirements—eight of 23 total command-level employees—include battalion chiefs, fire directors, division chiefs and assistant chiefs, Hohman said.

Hohman told Patch he is preparing to reorganize his command staff based partially on how many eligible employees are granted early retirement. Those wishing to take advantage of the must make their intentions known by Dec. 30 and must retire by Feb. 29.

“I have worked for the Baltimore County Fire Department for more than 34 years and I know all of those that are considering the retirement deal on both a professional and personal level and there is no doubt that I would miss each and every one of them,” Hohman said.

If accepted, employees can be credited for up to three years of additional service to their pension plan. The agency must then permanently close out the position or a similar one.

Hohman said if all eight of the command staff who expressed interest in the retirement deal take it, combined with expected civilian employee retirements, the department would save “a substantial amount of money” in excess of $1 million annually in salaries and benefits. The fire department’s budget for the current fiscal year is $92 million, Hohman said.

“Right now we are in a fluid situation because several who have expressed interest have not filed their paperwork and some may decide to change their mind,” Hohman said.  

The potential command staff retirements come at a time when many within the department expect to see an increase , even those not eligible for the retirement benefit.

This belief comes after the . Pension figures for firefighter retirees are computed using the salary of an employees’ final year of service.

According to fire department figures, 64 employees retired in 2010 while 32 have left the department through Nov. 24 this year. In addition, 12 employees have signed their intent to retire by the end of the year while another 14—including eight in the command staff—have indicated they would like to retire by Feb. 12, 2012 under the incentive, but have not yet signed the paperwork.

“I don’t begrudge anyone for exploring their options and making the best decision for themselves and their family,” Hohman said. “When it comes to the rank-and-file members, they are not getting any raises and there are no raises coming on the horizons, so for some there is no additional incentive to stay.”

Hohman said he knows replacing much of that institutional knowledge will not be easy, but stresses cycles like this have occurred in the past and the department is prepared to adjust.

“I am an eternal optimist,” Hohman said. “I believe we have captains and others at individual stations that will step up to the plate and take on the responsibilities needed to keep us moving forward.”

Robert Armstrong November 27, 2011 at 04:05 PM
You are just whining because these other people got better deals. A deal is a deal. Would you have the County renege on it's agreements? I have to hand it to you though, you aren't as smart as you think you are and you aren't as dumb as you look.
Buzz Beeler November 27, 2011 at 04:12 PM
Mr. Armstrong, just to show you that you are in over your head in many of these issues, and lack the knowledge to make informed comments -- I DID GET THE DROP, CL, V AND S MONEY! I was one of the first members of the FOP back when they were formed. When I was fired over a haircut the FOP refuse to represent myself and another officer. The FOP refused to represent either of us. We turned to the ACLU who took our case and we won after a four year battle. It was interesting because after the case all of the ones who would not support our efforts for a reasonable standard, were the first to grow their hair long as was the style in the early seventies. In my ADA issue the FOP again would not stand up for me and I told them the only way to stop Homan and Co. was to take the issue to the courts. They finally woke up when the Blake case was filed by Ms. Kahill, which I might add she won. There are 14 more pending. I have said this to you many times, you are not knowledgeable enough in many issues to make informed comments. You would rather spew vile juvenile comments. Speaking of class, at least my resume is a matter of record and not a figment of one's imagination. Speaking of looks, that head is a bit much.
Robert Armstrong November 27, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Do you have an accounting or an actuarial degree?. Who is actually over their head here.? If you actually qualified for a DROP then that would be an indication that the program was abused. A DROP program is only supposed to be utilized to retain valuable employees for up to 5 years. DROP's are cost neutral for the most part so you are having issues with people getting the money not the program. The County Councilmen aren't participants in the program so I don't know why you have an issue with them. It has to be a case of your Red Arse flaring up again.
Steve Shawson November 27, 2011 at 09:10 PM
Thanks Buzz. That's kind of what I thought. I do believe that Mr. Armstrong may be right on the cost neutral aspect of DROP programs. From the research that I did, most of them are in fact cost neutral to the system. In addition, given the fact that the employees actually drop back in salary to a date where their salary was lower. So, the retirement annuity will be based on a lower salary. However, in these austere times, the amount of money that these individuals will receive, it will look out of sync to most of us.
John Gooder November 27, 2011 at 09:37 PM
Who should he have replaced? Who is wrong people for his inner circle?
Bart November 28, 2011 at 12:09 AM
Buzz has in the past said it himself: He "died" on the floor of a police station. I can't remember which one, although I think I know. Is it any wonder they wanted him to retire? I fully understand the haircut incident, as I was a neighbor of the other officer involved. They both won a good case. And Buzz: don't bother attacking me, I won't respond.
W.Smith November 28, 2011 at 12:12 AM
Lets get back to the content of the article and stop arguing about the drop, S, L, CL. All county employees enjoy those bennies. What you are all missing is you have a department head that in his own words admitted he has 43 years in the FD. Exactly how long does he plan on being there? I would love to see his pay out. I bet that would cut the budget substantially. I am an eternal optimist,” Hohman said. “I believe we have captains and others at individual stations that will step up to the plate and take on the responsibilities needed to keep us moving forward.” Now that is a typical quote from a snake oil salesman my fellow taxpayers. He takes a bunch of information that the counsel, executive, and others that really does not understand it spins it and sells it to them. Fire investigations is a perfect example, yeup he took a couple of incomplete stats over to the hill and next thing you know the police are investigating fires involving pots of food on the stove or a overloaded extension cord. Real police work I would say. They are arson detectives not fire investigators. I don’t know his educational level but it doesn’t matter at all. The counsel, county executive and other officials buy his BS snake oil all the time.
Buzz Beeler November 28, 2011 at 01:24 AM
Bart, I never attack anyone unless they come after me. If you know Fred it's been a long time since I have seen him. I hope he is OK and tell him I said hi. Actually I went down in the captains parking spot. The only reason they came after me was because I filed a WC case and since I was the second most senior officer on the force they wanted to send a message. Mr. Smith the Drop is the issue here along with the accumulated sick time, C/L and vacation time. In fact if you look at the retirement system anyone who has 20 years is vested is already guaranteed 50% of their salary. Steve, I think this link might help explain the program. http://archives.citypaper.net/articles/2010/04/22/philadelphia-city-council-drop-program
Robert Armstrong November 28, 2011 at 01:48 AM
What in the Heck does Philadelphia have to do with Baltimore County??? You being an "expert" on Baltimore County's retirement plans should be able to cite the Baltimore County's plan's shortcomings. What a Maroon!
W.Smith November 28, 2011 at 02:17 AM
You two need to knock it off over this stuff the article is about "Command Staff Exodus Possible for Baltimore County Fire Department" Why is this important because the fire chief inflated it and now he has to deflate it at the expense of peoples jobs “I don’t begrudge anyone for exploring their options and making the best decision for themselves and their family,” Hohman said. Now that’s funny the patch should ask the poor chiefs officers that were told to go a few questions. While the Fire Chief continues with his 34 years, big bennies and political agenda. Mr. Kamenetz I thought you were a smart man but unfortunately I have to change my mind. Cant wait for the police try to sell there BS.
Jimmy November 28, 2011 at 02:19 AM
“I believe we have captains and others at individual stations that will step up to the plate and take on the responsibilities needed to keep us moving forward.” That is always why the FD looses...even when they are short handed, over worked and under paid, they still rise to the occasion and do a stellar job. I would hate to see what happens if they ever decide to get the "blue flu" or only do the minimum to get by. The rank and file are always getting the short end of the stick...when they get sick, they don;t use their sick time because of intimidation and fear of being disciplined, they can't speak up for their rights for the same reason. And their union, when asked to help only answers...management has the right to manage, even if it's badly. What kind of a union is that! I feel bad for those that can't afford to retire yet.
Buzz Beeler November 28, 2011 at 04:35 AM
Here is the math based on a BCPD Major’s salary grade of a 22 or 23P. The figures are rounded and based on 30 + years of service which is common at executive core level. http://resources.baltimorecountymd.gov/Documents/HumanResources/payschedules/ps7.pdf http://resources.baltimorecountymd.gov/Documents/HumanResources/payschedules/ps8.pdf Their base pay is $163,400 per year. A major with 30 + years of service who takes a five year Drop gives them $817,000 in cash. Now, with that in mind their pay is $628 per day. A 40 day leave by-out equals $25,000 in cash. In addition to that there could be a 240 hour compensatory leave buy-out which is $18,800 or a grand total of $860,000. Now take the sick days which are calculated that 22 sick days will equal a month of additional credible service towards retirement or $408 a month in added pension. A year’s sick time equals about $5,000. Now if 30 people in the fire and police departments take the options -- this figure may low -- it could be $24 million plus. This figure does not include other county employees who are eligible for retirement incentives. Other ranks eligible in the PD are captains and colonels. The fire department executive core rankings are a little different. I hope Mr. Armstrong's cardboard head doesn't start to spin after reading this.
Terry November 28, 2011 at 05:33 AM
I'm stunned! How can the county afford all this? Should they restructure this? Does any other local or federal government pay out this much? After reading your comments, everybody and their brother will want a job with the county. It's like winning the lotto!
Jimmy November 28, 2011 at 01:47 PM
The FD chief officer staff are the only ones that can take advantage of this incentive...Fire Director, Battalion Chief, Division Chief, assistant chief...basically anyone that is not protected by the Firefighters union.
Buck Harmon November 28, 2011 at 02:05 PM
"Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect." -
Robert Armstrong November 28, 2011 at 03:26 PM
You are trying to oversimplify a fairly complex program. What is Baltimore County's guaranteed interest rate? That will determine whether the program is cost neutral or not. I know Anne Arundel County's is 8%.
Bart November 28, 2011 at 04:50 PM
With a AAA Bond rating, they must be doing things right.
Buzz Beeler November 28, 2011 at 06:57 PM
Like I said you don't have the ability to answer the question. I put the figures out there and covered the bases. You simply ask another question, like always, without any evidence to refute my figures or support your statement. In other words you are long on the accusations and short on the evidence. Why don't you just say your in over your head, or do the research and answer your own questions. If you know AAC's rating then how come you can't find out the county's figures. If what you are insinuating is true, then why are they trying to force out everyone involved in these pension incentives? You ask me to cite the program and the figures which I did, now back up your own questions. As I said you are out of your league here.
Buzz Beeler November 28, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Bart, read this link. Bond ratings do not balance the budget. If they did, the board of ed would not be facing this shortfall. http://soetalk.com/2011/08/15/4217/
Robert Armstrong November 28, 2011 at 07:03 PM
What does this even remotely have to do with a BCPD Command Exodus??? Do teachers have DROPS?? No. (But maybe they should)
Buzz Beeler November 28, 2011 at 07:24 PM
I was not addressing you. Bart made a reference to the bond issue. You raised questions about a specific issue in your comments about whether the program is cost neutral or not. Where is your reply on the numbers that will refute the Drop issue? Your comment: " Do teachers have DROPS?? No." Your other comment: " What does this even remotely have to do with a BCPD Command Exodus???". You have to answer your own question because you raised the issue not me. I was pointing something out to another comment. On the one hand you are asking about the command staff, and in the other hand you talk about the teachers. You might want to follow your own advice.
Robert Armstrong November 28, 2011 at 08:37 PM
You totally missed Bart's point. It went right over your head. Par for the course.
Bart November 28, 2011 at 08:58 PM
No, Buzz, of course, bond ratings do not balance budgets; they are merely an indication of an entity's ability to pay their bills and grow. These scores are given by rating agencies whose track record is long and strong. They seem to think that Baltimore County is financially strong, and its leaders are moving in the right direction. What? Didn't they call you for your opinion? And, for the record, I don't follow many of your links, because they often have no direct bearing on your hypotheses.
Buzz Beeler November 28, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Bart, many of the links I post are from the Sun papers. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-county/bs-md-co-bond-rating-20111116,0,3645836.story This was the comment Kamenetz made regarding the bond ratings: "County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said he is pleased with the ratings, but added that the county must continue to find savings because revenues are not keeping pace with expenditures.". The same bond rating agencies also gave a triple A bond rating to the following companies: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Country Wide and Lehman Brothers. Is that par for the course or did that tee shot hit someone in a cardboard head.
Robert Armstrong November 28, 2011 at 10:34 PM
That's not what happened but don't let it get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.
Bart November 28, 2011 at 11:48 PM
I can't get the posts from the Sun because I won't pay for them. We subscribed to the Sun for decades as the quality went in the toilet, but when they stopped carrying Zippy the Pinhead, well, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. We canceled. They won't get another dime from me. We get the Washington Post. And you've got the whole Country Wide and Lehman Bros. in the wrong column. Using the reality of the day, they were fine until the repercussions of deregulation raised their ugly heads. Municipalities are a far different creature. The overuse of conspiracy theories wears thin.
Buzz Beeler November 29, 2011 at 02:07 AM
Lehman Brothers: http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1923197,00.html Hardly a "conspiracy theory.". The largest bankruptcy in U.S. history is not exactly a theory. Countrywide: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companiescountrywide_financial_corporation/index.html Barney has announced his retirement and with it goes his famous statements just before the collapse of Fanni Mae and Freddie Mac that everything was just peachy. The current state of the U.S. economy along with the Euro crisis is hardly another conspiracy theory. I used your preferred Washington Post link. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/european-debt-crisis-investors-confidence-shows-signs-of-crumbling/2011/11/27/gIQAFsJD3N_story.html "Less than 1 percent of counties nationwide have a AAA rating, county officials said." This quote came from the Sun. If the municipalities are a different creature why are only 1% receiving a Triple A Bond Rating? There is quite a contrast between a theory and reality.
Bart November 29, 2011 at 02:19 AM
"Less than 1 percent of counties nationwide have a AAA rating, county officials said." Good for Baltimore County. The rest of your statements are just blather.
Buzz Beeler November 29, 2011 at 03:36 AM
I just responded to your statement regarding the issue of municipalities are different when it comes to finances. You said you read the Washington Post so that was the link I used. What parts are blather?
Jimmy November 29, 2011 at 10:27 PM
To Armstrong...Do teachers have DROPS?? No. (But maybe they should) They are on a state pension system, not the county...so far. As far as bond rating, the county should give up some of the great credit they have before they take away services from the county residents.


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