Cleveland City Council voted Monday to reappoint retired councilman Kenneth Johnson of Ward 4 under a controversial practice called “double dipping,” allowing him to collect retirement benefits and a salary.

The move marked the first time in the city’s history that a member was reappointed after voluntarily leaving a term.

Judge Charles Patton administered the oath of office to Johnson at Monday night’s council meeting. Members of his family joined him at the council president’s desk as he was sworn in.

Johnson, along with Jay Westbrook, are the second-longest tenured members of Cleveland City Council, serving since 1979. Mike Polensek is the body’s longest serving member.

Johnson defended his resignation, retirement and reappointment during an interview with NewswChannel5 prior to being sworn in.

“I could have retired 17 years ago and collected a pension check all that time and I chose not to do that and it cost me a million dollars, a million, $200,000 by waiting until now,” he said.

“This council has never been put in a situation like this in my 35 years,” said Councilman Michael Polensek of Ward 11.

At a caucus meeting punctuated by heated arguments about Johnson’s move, the council voted 14 to 3 to reappoint him. The move allows the 42-year public service veteran to draw on his benefits and collect a $74,000 per year salary. The 65-year-old purposefully retired last year after the state made changes to its pension system.

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