Woonsocket police retiree challenges commission on health care changes

Woonsocket police retiree challenges commission on health care changes

WOONSOCKET – Saying the Woonsocket Budget Commission lacks the authority to make changes to his health care benefits, retired Woonsocket police officer Glen Hebert has requested a temporary restraining order against the city and the board from altering his union's collective bargaining agreement.

The complaint, which was issued June 27 in Superior Court, states that the in making unilateral changes to Hebert's contract, the commission violates his rights under the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and exceeds the authority granted to the state-appointed board under the enabling legislation.

The decision to alter retired police officers' contracts, along with the contracts of nearly 800 former city teachers, firefighters and municipal workers, is part of a five-year plan aimed at restoring the fiscal stability in Woonsocket. According to state officials, the retiree plan, which includes a switch to a 20 percent co-pay and suspension of cost of living increases for former police and fire department employees, would save the city around $3.7 million annually. The changes are slated to take effect July 1.

Hebert, who is being represented by Attorney Edward Roy of North Kingstown, has charged that he will suffer irreparable harm from the plan and has "no adequate remedy at law to redress the changes made by the city." Hebert retired in 2005 and was represented by the International Brother of Police Officers #404.

State Director of Revenue Rosemary Booth Gallogly has said that the municipal pension plan will run out of money by 2021 if changes are not made.