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WI: Seidel steps down early for her benefits’ benefit, source says

By   /   January 3, 2013  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle  | Wisconsin Reporter

STEPPING DOWN: State Rep. Donna Seidel, D-Wausau, steps down days before her term expires.

MADISON – Just days before her term is set to expire, state Rep. Donna Seidel, D-Wausau, has resigned, effective Dec. 28, Wisconsin Reporter has learned.

The reason for her early departure, according to the Assembly Clerk’s office, is a more advantageous state retirement plan.

Seidel, who did not seek re-election, would have completed her term Jan. 7, the day the 2013-14 legislative session begins.

On Thursday, Wisconsin Reporter learned from the Legislative Reference Bureau that Seidel submitted her resignation. The Assembly Clerk’s office confirmed the report, noting that the office received Seidel’s letter of resignation. An official declined to release the letter to Wisconsin Reporter, but said Seidel retired in late December to avail herself of more advantageous benefits in her Wisconsin Retirement System plan.

Seidel did not return phone calls left at her Madison office, and her district phone was not in service Thursday afternoon.

Mark Lamkins, spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds, said any qualifying public-sector employee in the state’s pension system may determine “the most beneficial time to retire, whether that’s the end of the year or the beginning of the new year.”

State lawmakers who have reached their five-year vestment are entitled to a WRS pension, paid on their highest three-year average wage.

The Department of Employee Trust Funds provides public employees a booklet on retirement timing.

“Every year, Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) participants who plan to retire at the end of the year want to know whether their WRS annuity would be higher if their annuity begins just before the end of the year or at the beginning of the new year,” the booklet states. “There is no simple or definitive ‘one size fits all’ answer.”

It all boils down to a participant’s accounts, account history, and several other factors. Bottom line, it’s a numbers game.

Lawmakers from time to time opt to retire in December before the session’s end for the benefit of their pension payouts, Lamkins and others said. Lamkins or others contacted by Wisconsin Reporter did not know of others doing so of late.

Seidel was first elected to the Assembly in 2004. She served as assistant minority leader in 2011, and assistant majority leader in 2009. Seidel lost a Senate recall election in June to Republican state Rep. Jerry Petrowski of Stettin.

For now, the 85th Assembly District will be without a representative until Wausau teacher Mandy Wright, a Democrat who narrowly won Seidel’s open seat in November, is sworn in next week.

Also stepping down a few days early, state Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee, according to the Assembly Clerk’s office. Grigsby, who battled serious health issues earlier this year, announced last spring that she would not seek another term. The lawmaker resigned on Wednesday to take another position, according to the clerk’s office. Grigsby did not return phone calls from Wisconsin Reporter.

Contact Kittle at mkittle@wisconsinreporter.com

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Kittle is a 25-year veteran of radio, newspaper and online journalism. In July 2011, Kittle joined Watchdog.org as bureau chief for Wisconsin Reporter. He has spent much of the past three years covering the seismic political changes taking place in the Badger State. Last year, Kittle joined Watchdog’s national reporting team, covering everything from energy policy to governmental assaults on civil rights. Beyond being published in Wisconsin’s daily newspapers and in multimedia news outlets, Kittle’s work has appeared on Fox News, and in Human Events, Reason Magazine, Newsmax and Town Hall. His special investigation into a politically charged John Doe probe, “Wisconsin’s Secret War,” was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze. Kittle has made several appearances on Fox News, including “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. He serves as weekly politics commentator for Lake 96.1 FM in Lake Geneva, and WRJN-AM 1400 in Racine. His resume includes multiple awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, Wisconsin Broadcast Association and other journalism associations. Contact Kittle at mkittle@watchdog.org.

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