'Double dipping' rules sink plan to hire Donica Sharpe for position

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FARMINGTON — Donica Sharpe sat in the city manager’s chair for one Bloomfield City Council meeting before deciding to withdraw from her appointment to the position last week.

The city will have a meeting at 8 a.m. Friday at Bloomfield City Hall, 915 N. 1st St., to discuss appointing a new city manager, according to City Councilor Matt Pennington and City Attorney Ryan Lane.

According to a press release from the city of Bloomfield, when Sharpe’s contract negotiations were finalized last week, she discovered she would have to suspend her Public Employees Retirement Association benefits if she went to work as city manager.

The press release states Sharpe volunteered her time to serve as city manager while waiting for approval from PERA and for the negotiations process with the city to play out.

Sharpe had been offered a part-time position as city manager after former City Manager Eric Strahl resigned in March.

Sharpe previously worked for the city’s planning and zoning department. Lane said Sharpe retired in 2016.

“Ms. Sharpe decided she could not afford to abide by the very rigid PERA retirement return-to-work rules,” the press release states.

Lane said Sharpe’s case is a good example of the problem with the double-dipping rules that prevent a public employee from receiving retirement benefits if they go back to work for a municipality.

He said the same issue often can be seen in the education system. Retired school teachers are not able to receive retirement benefits if they return to work in the public education system.

Lane said Sharpe would have had her pay deducted from her retirement benefits.

“She would essentially have been working for free,” he said.

According to the press release, PERA guidelines will allow Sharpe to serve as a part-time consultant for Bloomfield’s leadership team,

“Her special skills will be utilized contributing to mission critical projects, especially planning and zoning,” the press release states.

Lane said the city hopes to find a candidate for city manager who already works for Bloomfield.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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