Commissioner: 41-year-old ex-Ficano aide "disingenuous" in claiming he's forced to draw $96k pension

DETROIT (WXYZ) - The 41 year-old ex-aide to Robert Ficano poised to collect an almost six-figure annual pension was "disingenuous" when he said he was forced to do it, Wayne County Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak said today.

Wednesday, the 7 Action News Investigators first reported that former Ficano chief of staff Matt Schenk is in the process of applying for a $96,000 annual county pension . Now only 41, Schenk could gross $3,360,000 from the deal by the time he turns 76. 

"Matt is NOT in the least forced to begin drawing his retirement," Woronchak said today in an e-mail.

Schenk told 7 Action News earlier this week that retirement officials told him: "You have to retire by June 3 or you lose your retirement."

"I'm surprised that the retirement board gave me a date that I had to submit retirement papers," Schenk said by phone Tuesday night.

But today, Wayne County Retirement System Deputy Director Gerard Grysko said that Schenk was only required to transfer funds from his county defined-contribution plan into a defined-benefit plan, and purchase the necessary six years of service that he lacked to qualify for a pension.  The purchase cost him $440,000.

Today, Schenk said the retirement board gave him unclear advice.

"My understanding was that purchasing into the plan was an application to retire," he said today.

Schenk, who makes $194,000 at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, added that he had to take out a loan to purchase the six years of county time, and that it would be irrational to not begin drawing his pension at the same time.

Woronchak said he doesn't fault Schenk for taking advantage of the lucrative deal; he faults those in Robert Ficano's administration that put it into place. 

Ficano's spokeswoman had no comment.

Contact Ross Jones at rjones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.  You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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