Ishpeming Police Chief Jim Bjorne is expected to speak during the Ishpeming City Council meeting on Wednesday regarding his denial of early retirement and benefits.
Bjorne requested to transfer his years of service to qualify for his retirement benefits because of health issues which deny him the ability to perform any work beside administrative duties. Bjorne believes that the health issue might lead to his termination as soon as September 30.
Bjorne released a statement, shown below, that says he plans to address the issue during the city council meeting on Wednesday. He will probably speak during the public comment period, according to Ishpeming City Manager Jered Ottenwess.
Jim Bjorne's statement:
Longtime Ishpeming Police Chief Jim Bjorne will address the Ishpeming City Council tonight regarding his pervious request to transfer retirement years from the County of Marquette to the City of Ishpeming and his pending termination. Bjorne is a 27-year veteran in law enforcement with 22 plus years in Ishpeming and four years with the Marquette County Sheriff's Office.
Bjorne is currently working four hour days due to a health issue. He asked the city council to transfer the credit from his nearly four years of service at the Marquette County Sheriff's Office using Public Act 88, to the Ishpeming Police/Fire Retirement System so that he can retire. The request came before council in March of this year where it was denied.
Public Act 88 of 1961 allows public employees who worked for more than one city, township or county government in Michigan, to transfer years of service to qualify for a pension.
In the past 39 years, six previous Ishpeming city employees have been granted the right to transfer time from other agencies under the Act. The Ishpeming City Council has never denied such a request, until Bjorne's. Bjorne's transfer will not impact the taxpayer or the city's general fund.
Because of spine problems, he is restricted to working four-hour days and administrative duties only. He gets paid for four hours a day. The city knew of his spine problems when he was hired as chief 11 years ago.
He has since learned of the city's intention to have him fired from his position, possibly as soon as September 30, 2011, if he cannot return to full duty.
Because of the situation, Bjorne has filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, claiming discrimination due to his spine disability. "This council wants a police chief who can answer calls for service and perform the duties of a patrol officer. The city was well aware of my spine issues when I was hired and now that I am limited to administrative duties only, they intend to fire me," Bjorne said.
"I'm not asking for any special consideration," said Bjorne. "I'm just asking to be credited with the time that I've earned and be treated as an equal to the six people who have transferred their time."
"I grew up here and I love this area," Bjorne said. "I have given my adult life and career to serving the residents of this city and county and to have it end this way is frustrating and sad."
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Ishpeming Senior Center.