Little-known law forces mayor of MN town to step down or lose his pension

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The mayor of a city in Minnesota has been forced to step down because an obscure law states he would lose his pension benefits if he didn't.

Darrel Olson shocked his fellow city council members in Baxter this week as he resigned from the mayoral position he has held for 10 years, Forum News Service reports.

His resignation came as the result of a little-known statute enforced by the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) of Minnesota, which states there needs to be a 30 day gap between claiming public retirement benefits and starting a job as an elected official.

Olson retired from his assessor job at Crow Wing County in April 2013 and started claiming his retirement income while he was mayor, only for PERA to contact him a few months ago to say he had an "erroneous retirement" because he did not take a 30-day gap, the newspaper reports.

He stepped down at a meeting earlier this week after being given a deadline by PERA of January 31, but the hope is that he will be able to resume his duties after the 30 days has elapsed.

In the meantime, the Brainerd Dispatch reports that the council is having to carry on in his stead, with vice mayor Todd Holman named as Olson's replacement at a meeting on Tuesday that was filled with regret as the council accepted his resignation.

"To me it was a heart-wrenching moment just to call for the action," Holman told the newspaper. "So I think the whole council felt the gravity of the situation."

"Trust me, I have tried everything I could think of to resolve this matter in a reasonable way," Olson said.

Rule enforced once before, in 2007

The enforcement of the statute by PERA is extremely rare, with Olson saying he had only found one such example of it being used.

That was in the case of Bruce Ahlgren, who was forced to step down as mayor of Cloquet for the same reason in 2007, but he voted back in as mayor shortly after serving his 30-day gap, according to Downtown Minnesota.

The website explains that the quirk in state retirement law bars employees who hold two government jobs from collecting retirement benefits from one job, while continuing to pay into the other.

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