Tenino owes $86,462 in overpaid benefits for former police chief

The city of Tenino is on the hook for $86,462 that was paid to former Police Chief John Hutchings.

The money reflects the pension payments Hutchings received during his tenure in Tenino, where he began working in 2012 after retiring from the Olympia Police Department.

Under his contract, Hutchings had to work 159.5 hours or less per month to keep his retirement benefits. Documents show Hutchings routinely worked more than the allotted number of hours between June 2012 and October 2013.

An audit by the state Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) found the city failed to report Hutchings’ retirement and employment status. As a result, the city must reimburse the state retirement trust fund.

Retirement Systems issued its decision April 16 after the city denied responsibility for overpayment of benefits. The city has the right to appeal the decision within 60 days.

“The employer is liable for all pension payments paid to him during the time he should have been contributing to the system,” said Dave Nelsen, assistant director for customer and policy services at Retirement Systems. “It’s a fairly uncommon circumstance.”

Tenino Mayor Bret Brodersen told The Olympian that the city is evaluating its options for appealing.

Brodersen said he fired Hutchings in March because the chief had worked extra hours and hired a reserve officer without approval, all while generally overstepping his authority.

The termination has sparked outrage among citizens in this city of 1,600 in south Thurston County. Several residents have called for Brodersen to rehire the popular police chief or resign.

The Tenino City Council issued a vote of no confidence in the mayor April 14. The mayor, who is running for re-election this year, has defended his decision and said he will not resign. A search is underway for a new chief.