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Opinion NC Sheriff’s Assoc. Executive VP attempts to enter the NC Gov. Ret. Sys.

I would like to take this opportunity to let your readers know of an unprecedented move by Eddie Caldwell (Executive Vice-President of the NC Sheriff’s Association).

Earlier this year, the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, worked with Rep. Shirley Randleman, to introduce legislation to close a critical loophole for officers and deputies who become disabled as the direct result of an incident while performing their duties and then have to medically retire. Officers and deputies were eligible for this benefit after one year of service.

Rep. Randleman was able to introduce legislation (HB 538- Remove Restrictions on LEO Disability Benefits) that would provide this benefit for officers and deputies from the time they start serving their communities. The bill received a favorable committee report and passed the House unanimously on June 3rd, before being referred to the Senate Committee on Pensions, Retirement, and Aging.

On Tuesday, June 14, 2011, just hours before HB 538 was to be heard in the Senate Committee, the PBA learned that committee co-chairman, Tom Apodaca, planned to amend the bill by enrolling Eddie Caldwell and other North Carolina Sheriff’s Association employees into the state’s Local Government Employees Retirement System (LGERS). This maneuver occurred without notice or consultation with the PBA or any other stakeholders, including the State Treasurer’s office. The State Treasurer’s office had previously expressed their concerns when the NCSA had attempted to enter the system through legislation in a previous legislative session. Senator Apodaca also didn’t allow public comment on the bill during the committee meeting and quickly adjourned the meeting after the committee vote.

The concerns of the State Treasurer’s office on this issue can be found in a letter from Robert M. Curran (Special Deputy Attorney General for the NC Department of Justice) to Debra Bryan (Senior Deputy Director, Retirement Systems Division) that is dated June 16, 2011.* In summarizing the letter, Curran wrote, “In sum, I have found nothing which establishes that the Association is a “separate, juristic, political subdivision of the State” as required by N.C.G.S. 128-21(11). Rather, it appears to be a nonprofit corporation, operating under the direction of an executive committee. Accordingly, it is not eligible to participate as an employer in the Retirement System.”

After several days of painstaking work, the PBA was successful in getting the amendment removed from HB 538. Mr. Caldwell, however, would not let the issue die and found legislative support to take a gutted bill (HB 656 -Photo ID for Certain Controlled Substances) which had passed the House and insert the Sheriff’s Association retirement language into that bill. Both HB 538 and HB 656 were passed by the Senate on July 16, 2011, and sent back to the House.

On June 17, 2011, HB 538 was calendared on the House floor and passed on a motion for concurrence “with the original bill language.” HB 538 was engrossed and sent to the Governor and was signed into law on June 27, 2011. HB 656 was not heard by the House before they adjourned.

The North Carolina Police Benevolent Association and the NC Sheriff’s Association have successfully worked together on several issues and PBA counts many deputies as members. The PBA has endorsed Sheriffs and regularly interviews and endorses county commissioners on issues related to funding for Sheriff’s departments. While Mr. Caldwell and the Sheriff’s Association is arguably the biggest obstacle to professional standards of fairness and accountability of police conduct and administrative due process for municipal police officers, we have been able to find common ground on issues. Mr. Caldwell’s latest actions, however, are deplorable and totally self serving. He attempted to ride the backs of disabled officers and deputies for his own financial gain while potentially putting the retirement system at risk with IRS scrutiny. This is unacceptable to the officers and deputies who put their lives on the line everyday in communities throughout North Carolina. It should also be unacceptable to the citizens they serve.

Randy Byrd – President — NC Police Benevolent Association

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