Licking County Commissioner Doug Smith will begin collecting retirement benefits while in office next year, a decision that has rankled some of his fellow Republican office holders.

Licking County Commissioner Doug Smith will begin collecting retirement benefits while in office next year, a decision that has rankled some of his fellow Republican office holders.

Smith, 67, recently filed paperwork with the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, which allows him to "retire" for bookkeeping purposes at the end of his current term and be rehired almost immediately at the start of his new term Jan. 1.

While Smith says the decision makes financial sense for him and his family, fellow county officials have criticized the decision in a letter sent to Smith earlier this week.

County Auditor J. Terry Evans said Friday, Nov. 26, that Smith was being dishonest with the voters by running for re-election without announcing that he would be collecting retirement during his elected term.

"With the economy the way it is, I think he would have received a lot less support," in the election, Evans said.

Smith won re-election to a new, four-year term earlier this month by capturing 62 percent of the vote in a three-way race. He said today that with more than 45 years of service accrued with the retirement system, there's little reason not to start collecting his retirement, which is allowed by state law.

Before becoming a commissioner in 2006, Smith was a longtime Harrison Township trustee and served in the military. He also purchased some of his years when that was an available option.

Because he did not notify county or state officials 90 days before he ran for the office, Smith will not collect his pension while serving his new term; his annuity payments will be collected and given to him in a lump-sum payment after he leaves office. He makes $65,620 a year as commissioner.

He said that if he were to die in office without retiring, his trust would receive only what he had paid into the retirement system. If he were retired when he passed away, the trust would receive his entire pension, including employer matches and contributions.

"Public service is very high on my list of commitments, second only to my family," Smith said. "They have to come first."