Why is this woman laughing?
Originally posted July 19, 2013; updated August 15, 2013



The Lansing State Journal, Mlive.com and the City Pulse all reported today that former Lansing police chief Teresa Szymanski has landed a job as the Lansing School District's chief operations officer. She retired from the Lansing police force on April 19, 2013 at age 50, with 26 years of service.

teresa szymanski lansing wlns.jpg

Her salary on her new job was not included in those July 19 reports, but the school district has told me in response to a FOIA request that it is $120,000. Her annual pension from Lansing's Police and Fire Retirement System is about $90,000. That is what her predecessor Mark Alley got when he retired in March 2010.

We don't know her actual pension amount because a state law was passed in December forbidding employers of public employees from releasing their pension details.

Lansing Police and Fire pensions are calculated by multiplying final average compensation (FAC) times 25 years times 3.2%.

Lansing police and firefighters can retire at any age after 25 years of service, and many retire before age 50. We don't often hear what these young retirees do after they leave, but we do know about a few of them:

  • Police Lieutenant Bruce Ferguson retired in 2010 at age 50 with a $66,507 pension. In January 2013, he became chief of police for the City of DeWitt at a salary of $65,000. (Lansing State Journal, 1/26/2013)

  • Mark Alley, Lansing's former chief of police, retired in March of 2010 to take a job as senior director of risk management for Emergent BioSolutions Inc. in Lansing. Since Emergent is not a public agency, they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and not likely to volunteer his new salary. We can only imagine. But we do know that his pension from the City is $90,356. Alley retired at age 48. He had only 24 years and one month of service, so he purchased another 11 months at a cost of $107,812.

  • Lansing police captain Ray Hall retired in February 2012 to take a job with University of Michigan-Flint as chief of police. His new salary is $103,000, according to this response to my FOIA request. His City of Lansing pension is $73,178. Hall was 49 years old when he retired. He was 16 months shy of the 25 years needed to qualify for a pension with the Lansing Police and Fire Retirement System, so he purchased 16 months.

  • David Ford and Walter Holden retired from the Fire Department in June 2010 and now head First Due Fire Supply in Mason - established April 2007. Ford's pension is $70,356 and Holden's is $62,288. Employees also include Lansing firefighter Chris Wheeler and duty disability retiree Dan Hamel (retired 7/20/2010, pension $45,560).

In the upcoming city elections, we should ask candidates to consider changing the retirement system so that police and firefighters are paid to work for Lansing rather than for someone else.