State audit: Retired Pinal official inflated pension - East Valley Tribune: Queen Creek & San Tan Valley

State audit: Retired Pinal official inflated pension

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Posted: Tuesday, August 29, 2006 11:31 am | Updated: 5:07 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Retirement won’t be quite as comfortable for former Pinal County Manager Stanley Griffis now that a state agency is taking back pension pay it says he didn’t deserve.

Griffis, currently the subject of a separate corruption investigation, was ordered to return $27,795 in retirement benefits to the Arizona State Retirement System after an audit determined the reported salary — the basis for his pension — had been inflated.

According to state documents, Retirement System auditors notified Griffis in mid-July that his annual benefits would be slashed by more than 30 percent, from about $155,000 to $105,000.

Griffis’ attorney, Lee Stein, said he may appeal the findings but would not comment further.

Retirement System spokesman David Cannella said public employees’ pensions are calculated based on their three highest-salary years during the last 10 years of employment.

Auditors determined that Griffis’ reported salary for the three years before retirement was overstated by about $200,000 because it included the proceeds from cashing out hundreds of hours of leave time. As a result, he has been receiving monthly pension checks of about $13,000 instead of the correct amount — just under $9,000.

“We made an overpayment of $27,000 and we want it back,” Cannella said.

Retirement System auditors did not determine whether the erroneous reporting was intentional, he said.

Former Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley is investigating allegations that Griffis spent county funds on $21,000 worth of weapons and ammunition for his personal use in 2005.

Romley, who was hired by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, said that he also is looking at the pension issue as part of a “criminal investigation.”

Cannella said intentional salary inflation, also known as “salary spiking,” is rare because such information generally comes from the retiree’s employer.

Salary spiking is considered an attempt to defraud a state agency, Cannella said, which is a felony offense punishable by up to a year in jail and a $150,000 fine.

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