Former councilman decries ‘double dipping’

First Selectman Vicki Tesoro brushed aside criticism this week that her administration was creating a situation in which town employees could “double dip” at taxpayer expense by retiring with a pension, then applying for another town job.

Former Town Council member Rick Costantini submitted a letter this week (full text here) criticizing Tesoro and council Democrats for what he called putting patronage over policy. The panel is considering repeal of an ordinance passed by the previous council in November barring individuals who are collecting a town pension from taking employment with the town.

“The goal of this ordinance was to eliminate people from retiring and then being re-hired for the same position, a practice known as double-dipping,” Costantini said. “If allowed, the employee would be simultaneously collecting a pension and a salary from the Town of Trumbull. Allowing people to collect a pension and then come back to add service years is a financial detriment to the town.”

Costantini was also critical of allowing residents who are collecting a town pension to serve on the town’s Pension Board and Police Commission, which he said constituted a conflict of interest.

Tesoro said the concept of banning so-called double dipping made for a good sound bite, but in reality was a red herring. She added that it was fundamentally unfair to deny someone the right to serve the town because of their employment history.

“You have to hire someone to fill the vacancy — why not someone with experience to shorten the learning curve?” she said. “Whether you hire a former employee or someone else, the taxpayer is not harmed. You’re still paying a pension and a salary.”

Tesoro also pointed out that the resolutions in question were passed Nov. 9, two days after the election and at the final meeting before the newly elected administration and Town Council took office.

“This action was aimed at specific individuals,” she said. “The previous administration was in office eight years, then passed this as they were walking out the door.”