By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Know what Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris has in common with Joe Arpaio henchman David Hendershott and County Attorney lapdog Barnett Lotstein? Nah, they're not subscribers to Cosmo, though that was this mischievous mallard's first guess, too.
Give up? They've all figured out how to increase their salaries by doing the public servant double dip. That's where they quit one job, start drawing their retirement, and then get rehired to do similar jobs on the taxpayer's dime, vastly increasing their incomes in the process.
After Hendershott's infamous double dip years ago, a law was passed to keep other fat-cat public safety officials from doing likewise. Last year, the Arizona Legislature modified the statute's language, making it plain that public safety retirees can't be rehired for the "same position," where they have the "same duties" and the "same authority."
Of course, the law doesn't apply retroactively to Hendershott, or to Lotstein, who, as a lawyer-flack, is not dedicated to public safety but rather to keeping his boss Candy Thomas' tuchis covered.
But it does apply to the city's silver-maned police chief. Last year, Harris was facing mandatory retirement because he'd chosen five years ago to participate in a legal mini-double dip known as DROP (the Deferred Retirement Option Program). That's a swell deal in which coppers and firefighters start drawing retirement benefits after 20 years of duty, yet can stay on the job for five more after that and collect their regular salary as well.
Harris' five were up in 2006, which was supposed to be the end of the gravy choo-choo for the top cop. But Mayor Phil "Goober" Gordon couldn't bear to see the chief vamoose. So the city whipped up a new job for Harris. In addition to being the head doughnut-eater, he'd have some anti-terrorism stuff to do. Since mid-February, Harris has been collecting a pension of $90K, plus his salary of $184,350. Nice jack, Jack.
Marc Lieberman, the lawyer for the Arizona Public Safety Retirement System, informed The Bird that the retirement system requires the state's pension boards to decide if an alleged double-dipper's new job is "substantially and materially different than the old job." In fact, Phoenix's Police Pension Board did discuss the issue last October, and what did they decide? Check this dubious doublespeak from the minutes:
"Sergeant [Ron] Snodgrassstated the Board was not being asked to give Chief Harris permission. He stated the Board was being asked to give reassurance the Board would not request the Fund Manager to reduce or suspend Chief Harris' pension or DROP benefits."
Er, so basically, the pension board okayed the request, but without giving "permission," so as to shield members' bureaucratic backsides. Love that name Snodgrass. Too bad Colonel Mustard wasn't on hand to bang the board's gavel.
Rubber-stamping aside, the question remains: Did the leading lawman of the fifth-largest city in America skirt the intent of the law? You be the judge. Look at the Phoenix Police Department's Web site. Harris' grinning gob is still there with the title "Police Chief" beside his name, and he is in dress blues. He's still "The Chief," just with way more bucks than before. No wonder P-town's First Flatfoot is smilin'.
From where this kooky cardinal sits, the Valley's most famous Nordstrom employee, Fred Goldman, looks like da man. In fact, he may be able to quit that gig in the men's department of the Scottsdale Fashion Square store soon, what with his repackaged O.J. Simpson tome If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer sitting at number two in sales on amazon.com.
Even O.J. himself is lending a hand, having landed in jail sans bail for a little incident in Vegas in which he's alleged to have ripped off some sports memorabilia peddlers at gunpoint! The Juice may have to raise Johnnie Cochran from the grave to get out of this jam. This pecker's saying, with O.J. in the news again, Peoria resident Goldman can sit back in the catbird seat and watch those book sales soar.
Goldman was on Oprah Winfrey’s show recently defending his family's decision to republish the book. (A federal bankruptcy judge awarded them the rights in June.) According to the silver-mustachioed barbershop quartet stand-in, this was his family's chance to collect on its share of the $33.5 million award from a 1997 wrongful-death suit against the former Hertz shill and Heisman Trophy winner.
Oprah revealed that the Goldmans are getting 90 percent of profits from the snuff book, which equates to 17 cents for every one sold. Even though Goldman was instrumental in getting the original book deal axed, and though he had once called on the American public not to purchase the blood-tinged tome, here he was on Oprah screeching that he had no choice. Florida's debtor-friendly laws have prevented the Goldmans from collecting on their multimillion-dollar jury award against Sunshine State resident Simpson.
Maybe this about-face makes Freddy a hypocrite, but he's too busy going for the gold, man, to worry 'bout that.