O’Connor regrets analogy, says city robbed retirees

O’Connor regrets analogy, says city robbed retirees

In hindsight, I somewhat regret using the analogy of a partially filled glass of water to explain how I felt regarding the settlement of our case with the city of Pawtucket, after reading your latest commentary (Breeze 8/28) of the savings the city has made because they did not have to pay what they took from us as a savings to the city.

Let’s go back to the glass of water analogy as the amount of money the city initially suggested that they were deficient. That was $12 million. However, when depositions were extracted prior to the start of the trial, we learned that it wasn’t $12 million, but $7 million. Not that $7 million isn’t a lot of money, but it was a sum that could have been overcome with good financial management. Now, that doesn’t seem to be to unmanageable for a good administrator.

Which brings us to the real issue: administrators. Fact being, 20 years prior to Mayor Grebien issuing his mandate that the retirees would have to contribute, the city misappropriated (can’t think of any other reason but criminal intent, and we have no evidence of that) money that should have been contributed to the pension fund. You know as well as I that administrators have a fiduciary responsibility for seeing to it that the ARC (annual required contribution) was at a level sufficient to stabilize the fund. Keep in mind that the present Mayor Grebien had influence in the maintenance of the pension fund due to the fact that he held office as a councilman for a good number of years and was instrumental in budget expenditures while in office. He knew the financial status of the pension plan. To take this a step further, when he became mayor, he also knew or should have known that the pension was a product of collective bargaining and that changes to the pension plan should have been negotiated with the police and fire labor unions. He knew that the unions could no longer represent us due to a Supreme Court decision that prohibits union representation of retirees, because they are no longer employed.

This is what painted the picture of “low-hanging fruit” for the mayor and he proceeded to pick our pockets to enhance his political profile.

Mayor Grebien, in the process of extracting our hard-earned money, used what I would call a Machiavellian approach because as he violated both the U.S. Constitution and Rhode Island Constitution, wherein the documents prohibit the breaching of (contracts by the government). Mind you, the mayor could have broken the contract prior to 1776, but seeing how that power to dictate was abolished with the U.S. Constitution, he had no legal right to do so.

Well you might say that if I am so sure of my conviction, why didn’t we proceed in court instead of settling. The answer is quite simple: our case was being adjudicated by a jury (sympathetic taxpayers) who’s sympathy, we believe, would have ignored the prima facia facts and ruled in favor of the city regardless of the facts. So, we took the best interests of our membership into consideration and agreed to settle the case.

That being said, and the case concluded the fund though financially on the road to improvements, is still $50 million short as it relates to the underfunding practices of past administrations.

The administration should not be puffing up its chest that they settled the case (partially empty glass) at the expense of short-changing its dedicated police and fire retirees of their promised compensation.

It all boils down to having competent, caring individuals administering the city’s’ affairs.

Jeremiah O’Connor

Chairman, Pawtucket Public Safety Retirees Association