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CALDWELL — Former Caldwell Police Chief and newly elected City Councilman Chris Allgood has resigned from the council in the same month that he was sworn in.

Allgood said he was forced to choose between his retirement benefits earned from his time with the police department and his seat on the council.

“Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am forced to vacate my seat on the Caldwell City Council,” Allgood wrote in his letter of resignation. “I worked hard to become a Councilman and the people of Caldwell supported me. This is not something I am doing willingly.”

Allgood’s resignation is effective as of Friday.

Allgood announced his bid for a City Council seat shortly after he announced his retirement from the Caldwell Police Department. He won election to the City Council in November over candidate Magda Ruano, and he retired as chief in December 2015.

ALLGOOD’S BENEFITS DENIED

Allgood received a letter dated Jan. 22 from a manager at Public Employees Retirement System of Idaho that stated his retirement benefits would be stopped immediately, according to a press release from the city of Caldwell.

The city’s Human Resources Director Monica Jones worked with a representative from the PERSI to process retirement benefits and answer questions for Allgood when he considered retirement last summer, according to the city. Jones and Allgood relied upon the advice and instructions of the city’s PERSI representative throughout the process until Allgood’s PERSI retirement benefit application process was completed.

“At no point during this transition period was Mr. Allgood or I informed that he would have to forfeit his retirement benefits once he became a city council member,” Jones said in a press release.

A spokesman for PERSI said he couldn’t specifically comment on Allgood’s case.

“We are bound by law to not discuss member issues,” said Kelly Cross, a spokesman for PERSI.

Cross said whenever a member’s retirement application is initiated, PERSI staff goes through a process and reviews the law to determine how benefits are paid.

According to a PERSI document titled “Working After Retirement,” PERSI retirees may work for any private-sector employer for as long as they want and for as many hours as they want, and it won’t affect their PERSI retirement. But there are restrictions if the retiree goes to work for an employer belonging to PERSI.

City council members are paid by the city and are considered employees. According to the Caldwell municipal code 03-01-35, each member of the council elected to office or in office shall receive a biweekly {span class=”keyword”}salary{/span} of $329.19. Which equals to a yearly salary of about $16,000.

Caldwell city council members also receive benefits through PERSI.

Early PERSI retirees — which PERSI defines as younger than age 65, or 60 for police and firefighters — a 90-day break is required between retirement and re-employment with the same employer. In this case, Allgood, who was 52 at the time of the election, became re-employed by the city of Caldwell without the 90-day break.

Allgood announced his retirement on Jul. 30 and his last day was in December. He was sworn into office on Jan. 4.

Without the 90-day break, any pension benefit payments received plus interest must be returned to PERSI.

That requirement only applies to early retirees, according to the PERSI document. It has been in place since 1996 due to IRS regulations, according to PERSI.

Section 59-1356 of Idaho Code outlines the rules for PERSI retired when they become re-employed.

It’s not uncommon for former police chiefs to later hold city council positions. In an interview with the Press-Tribune, Jones and Mayor Garret Nancolas said they were familiar with the PERSI requirement after former Caldwell Police Chief Bob Sobba later become a city councilman.

“If I remember correctly, (Sobba) had a break in service before. He had met the 90-day requirement,” Jones said.

The mayor agreed.

“Unless the rules have changed, there must have been something different with Bob,” Nancolas said.

A determination was made by the PERSI manager that Allgood was not eligible to receive his retirement benefits and hold office on the council without a 90-day break between the two positions, according to the city.

“This is such an unfortunate situation,” Nancolas said in a statement. “I was looking forward to working with Chris as a member of the council. I have complete confidence that both he and Monica did everything in good faith and that this was unintentional.

“It is just a very unfortunate situation in which he was given inaccurate information. Our city attorneys will be reviewing PERSI’s determination in this matter and working to ensure that we are following the appropriate process and procedures going forward. I know Chris is taking care of his family right now and that is most important.”

NO IMMEDIATE ACTION TO BE TAKEN

According to the city of Caldwell’s spokeswoman Holly Cook, no immediate action will be taken by the city to fill Allgood’s seat.

According to the municipal code, if a City Council member resigns, the mayor will nominate a replacement and the City Council will appoint a new member to fill a vacancy.

“We don’t want to jump the gun,” Cook said. “The city attorneys are looking at everything to see if there is a solution to this.”

Cook said it will be at least a month before the mayor starts looking for City Council nominees.

Cook said if the attorneys find a way to repeal PERSI’s decision, Allgood may be able to take back his seat.

If the situation can be fixed, Cook said, Allgood would be able to run for a seat in City Council during the next election.

The next election for city council seats one, two and three will be in Nov. 17 and the term will start in January, 2018.

In his letter, Allgood stated he will work to regain his seat in the future.

The Caldwell City Council will next meet on Monday.

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