Special Reports

Pension board low-profile but important

Tacoma's Police Pension Disability Board typically functions away from the spotlight, with little public notice and few visitors to its monthly meetings.

"This city board, like some others, is sparsely attended," said Phil Knudsen, human resources director.

Despite its low profile, the police pension board has an important role. It navigates complex state laws to approve or reject retirement requests. The board also decides whether disability leaves or disability retirements are granted.

The board consists of six members. Mayor Bill Baarsma, City Clerk Doris Sorum and City Treasurer Morgan Jacobson serve as a result of their city positions. Three retired police officers are elected by their peers for two-year terms.

With six board members, tie votes are possible. Such a vote results in a failed motion - or no action. Its rules also allow board members to bring an issue back for further consideration.

Collectively, the police officers now on the board have more than 85 years experience with the Tacoma Police Department.

Lt. David Lane, who retired in 1996, served the department for 30 years. Officer Lee Giles, who retired in 2000, worked for nearly 30 years. Officer Lee Revelle, who retired in 1993, served for 25 1/2 years.

City officials on the board also have years of longevity.

Sorum became city clerk three years ago, after working in various administrative jobs for more than a decade.

Baarsma is approaching the second year of his four-year term as mayor, after serving as a City Council member from 1992 to 1999.

Jacobson was named city treasurer in February, after first working as the city's treasury manager two years ago, and previously with the state.

If the pension board grants assistant police chief Catherine Woodard disability retirement after six months of disability leave, she can earn 50 percent of her $131,081 annual salary - $65,540 - tax free.

If Woodard disagrees with the board's decision, she can appeal to the state Department of Retirement Systems.

Martha Modeen: 253-597-8646