Columbia police chief retires because of changes to state system, hopes to be rehired

Police Chief Randy Scott must take 15-day absence before reapplying

nophillips@thestate.comDecember 29, 2012 

Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott tendered his resignation effective Tuesday due to changes in the state retirement policy, but he hopes the city hires him back within a couple of weeks.

Scott is one more public official to retire because of changes to the state’s retirement plan. Odds are high that City Manager Steve Gantt will rehire Scott as soon as he is eligible on Jan. 16. Already, Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins has retired and been rehired.

“I am committed to Columbia,” Scott said. “I am committed to serving the people fairly, and I have every intent, if the city will have me back, of remaining the city of Columbia police chief. I love my job.”

Scott, 44, was selected as interim police chief in October 2010 and hired full time in January 2011. He earns $112,200 per year and previously worked for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

Police and firefighters who retire after Jan. 2 will see a cap on the amount of money they can receive from the retirement system each year if they go back to being employed and earn more than $10,000 a year, said Megan Lightle, a spokeswoman for the State Retirement System.

So if Scott waited until Jan. 2 to retire and then returned to work, he could receive benefits from his retirement account only until he earned $10,000 each year.

Police and firefighters across the state have rushed to the State Retirement System office to file their paperwork before the year’s end, Lightle said.

Under the state policy, those who retire must wait 15 days before reapplying for their old jobs.

Overseeing the police department in the interim will be deputy police chief Ruben Santiago.

When Jenkins retired Oct. 19 he did not use his city cell phone, listen to the fire radio or respond to calls for 15 days.

“When it’s something you’ve been doing for so long, it’s hard,” Jenkins said.

Scott said the absence will be difficult.

Gantt is not allowed to guarantee someone will be rehired after they retire, said City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine. But the council would be concerned if Gantt announced he was hiring someone else to serve as chief.

“The majority of council is very happy with Randy,” Devine said.

And Gantt more than once has said that hiring Scott as police chief is one of his best decisions as city manager.

Unlike police chiefs who preceded him, Scott has forged a cooperative relationship with City Council. He has overhauled the department, including restructuring the command staff and creating a community policing team, a drug suppression team and a warrant team. He also has improved the department’s recordkeeping and crime analysis capabilities.

This month, Scott was awarded the prestigious Strom Thurmond Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Mayor Steve Benjamin nominated him for the award.

Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.

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