Gary Brazgel, whose tenure as chairman of Milwaukee's retirement fund and executive director of the city's 457 plan reads like something out of a television drama, is making a show-stopping exit.
Here's the short version. Act I finds Mr. Brazgel, a Milwaukee police officer on leave, shepherding the board of the $4.1 billion City of Milwaukee Employes' Retirement System through a pension deal with the city's unions. Under the pension accord, the board dipped into the fund's $1 billion surplus to help the city balance its budget by, in part, switching responsibility for the costs of pension fund administration from the city to the pension fund, said Anne Bahr, the pension fund's executive director.
Part of the surplus has been used to increase retirement benefits and institute earlier retirement ages for the city's safety employees including firefighters and police officers.
Act II: Now that the squabble between the unions and city fathers is over, Mr. Brazgel is taking advantage of the deal he helped broker. He returned to the police department for one day on Feb. 2, then on Feb. 3 retired from the police force, Ms. Bahr confirmed. Under the pension deal, active and retired city employees receive a roughly 14% increase in benefits. Police officers can now retire either at 57 or with 25 years experience. Retirement age for city workers is 60 or a combination of 55 years and 30 years of service, she said.
As a result, Mr. Brazgel no longer can be a member of the board, because he was elected to represent active employees. He likewise has left his position as executive director of the city's $385 million deferred compensation plan. City Comptroller W. Martin Morics - vice chairman of the city's pension board and chairman of the city's 457 plan board - now chairs the pension board, which on Feb 27 elected a new vice-chairman, Patrick J. Cronin. In the spring, the board will hold a special election among city employees to choose an eighth member of the board.
An actuarial study is under way to analyze the overall impact of the pension agreement on the fund's investments, Ms. Bahr said."We do not expect a material impact on the investments," she said.