Letter — New ordinance is fair, equitable, well-reasoned
This letter provides additional background regarding the replacement of the so-called “double dipping” ordinance by the Town Council this month. The replacement was necessary because of two major issues which did not surface until after its adoption. First, we believe the ordinance was put forward with the underlying intent of targeting certain former Town employees, to prevent them from serving the incoming administration. Second, the ordinance went beyond what was necessary to address the issue, and would have negatively impacted more people and positions than warranted.
In hindsight, we should have questioned more critically the timing of the ordinance. The prior administration had eight years to address the perceived problem, yet waited until the last council before the November election to propose the prior ordinance. This alone should have raised a red flag; however, we mistakenly accepted the ordinance at face value.
Our beliefs were confirmed when a member of the Republican caucus acknowledged publicly that a similar ordinance regarding the Police Commission was intended to prevent Ray Baldwin from being appointed to that body. We believe the original double-dipping ordinance likewise targeted specific former town employees, such as First Selectman Tesoro’s choice for town attorney, Dan Schopick.
The original ordinance imposed an absolute prohibition against pension recipients working for the town. Shortly following its passage, we were contacted by residents likely to be affected, and quickly realized that the implications of the ordinance had not been fully considered. We learned that when factoring in the costs and administrative burden of finding and training qualified replacements, and possible overtime costs if replacements are not found, it would be more cost effective in certain instances to retain retired employees. Moreover, loss of the institutional knowledge and experience of long-time employees, especially from our Police Department, would negatively impact the town and its operations.
Coincidentally, in the wake of the latest school shooting tragedy, some residents have suggested increasing the armed police presence on school campuses. If that were to occur, the most logical candidates would be retired officers from our Police Department. This would have been prohibited, without exception, under the original ordinance.
We agree that double-dipping should be prevented; however, it is not a rampant scourge in Trumbull requiring an ordinance drafted in absolutes. One of the many good things that Mr. Herbst accomplished during his tenure was moving town employees from a pension system to a defined contribution plan. Thus, the potential for double-dipping is confined to a limited group of people. With the replacement ordinance, our caucus attempted to address potential abuse of the pension system, while at the same time acknowledging certain instances where exceptions should apply, and retaining necessary flexibility to address other situations should they arise. We believe the result is a fair, equitable and well-reasoned piece of legislation that will serve the town and its residents well.