State: Fire chief got $550K in extra pension money

Mike Baker, Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) -- Auditors are seeking to collect more than $550,000 from DuPont after concluding Friday that improper reporting led to excess pension payments for the city's fire chief.

The Department of Retirement Systems concluded that the city should not have classified Fire Chief Greg Hull as an independent contractor when he was hired after retiring from a position at another fire department. Hull's pension payments would have stopped if he had been labeled as a regular employee, so the state is now seeking to have the city repay the extra $550,000 in retirement money he received over the last few years.

"We feel the city is responsible for that overpayment," said Dave Nelsen, the legal and legislative services manager at the Department of Retirement Systems. It's a substantial amount of money for the city, accounting for roughly one-third of DuPont's annual fire department budget.

State officials recently notified Hull that his pension payments would be stopped, and city leaders said this week that Hull is resigning for "personal reasons." Hull will be able to apply for pension payments again starting next month, Nelsen said.

The retirement system began examining DuPont's procedures after an Associated Press investigation showed how some firefighter and law enforcement workers got late pay raises that helped increase their pensions. At about $184,000 a year, Hull had one of the largest pensions in the state.

DRS officials were still reviewing details of a raise that Hull received shortly before he retired in 2010 from Lakewood Fire District 2 to determine whether that pay bump was improperly included in his pension calculations. Nelsen said Hull's pension will also be influenced because he will have more service credits for his years working in DuPont, but he will lose cost-of-living adjustments he had received over the same period.

Auditors also dinged DuPont for improperly classifying two other workers as contractors, and they are seeking to have the city pay $45,000 to the pension system for those workers.

DuPont has the option of appealing. The city wrote in a brief response to the final audit that it believed all three people were properly labeled as contractors.

Mayor Michael Grayum did not return a call seeking comment.