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County sues ex-jailer over retirement payments

The Island County Prosecutor's Office is seeking legal action against a former Island County jail administrator who allegedly collected more than $30,000 in state retirement benefits while he was employed full-time by the county.

An audit recently conducted by the state Department of Retirement Systems found that former Island County Sheriff's Office employee Jack Zimmerman was paid retirement benefits for the entire 14 months he was working as chief jail administrator for Island County in 1999-2000.

State law limits such "double-dipping" to employees working 1,500 hours or less in a calendar year, or about three-quarters time, primarily as an incentive to draw public teachers out of retirement.

Because the immediate liability for Zimmerman's actions fall to the county, the board of commissioners recently was required to pay DRS the full $30,745.82 out of the general fund.

Last Monday, the board officially decided to go after that money. Citing the fact that such overpayment "will result in an unjust enrichment and windfall to the Zimmermans and an inequitable financial burden upon Island County taxpayers," the board approved a resolution authorizing Deputy Civil Prosecutor Dave Jameison to commence legal action to collect the money from Zimmerman, along with any applicable interest.

Jameison said Monday that Zimmerman has been served papers notifying him about the legal action, and now has 20 days to answer the allegations.

"He could choose to pay the money back or contest the lawsuit," Jameison said.

The only expense to the county for prosecuting the case would be the out-of-pocket cost of taking depositions, Jameison said. Otherwise, the case is followed through with existing staff at no additional cost to the county.

Prior to coming to work for the county in 1999, Zimmerman worked for the state Department of Corrections supervising convicted felons. He also was a community corrections officer in Oak Harbor before retiring. In 1998 he ran against Marilee Black for Island County clerk.

Zimmerman could not be reached for comment.

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