Tesoro responds to double dipping questions

First Selectman Vicki Tesoro
First Selectman Vicki Tesoro

I am responding to the letter from Mr. Rosenburg. I have been focused on preparing the town budget, and apologize for not responding sooner.

I do not support “double dipping” – i.e., when an employee voluntarily retires and is rehired shortly thereafter to do the exact same job.

On November 9, 2017, two days after the municipal election, the outgoing Town Council passed an ordinance prohibiting what they considered double dipping. While laudable on its face, the timing was suspect and the ordinance, was, in my opinion, over broad and unfair to the town and many residents.

For example, a retired police officer would be prevented from taking a job as a police dispatcher. Such an individual already has the skills for that position, and would require little training. It is an entirely different job and must be filled by the town in any event. It would be an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers to train a new employee when a qualified and experienced person is available.

The new council put forward a resolution in January to repeal the original ordinance. During the debate, good points were made by council members from both parties, and the majority, instead of simply imposing its will, agreed the matter should be sent back to committee for further review. The committee returned a replacement ordinance that bars blatant double dipping, yet permits the hiring of qualified former employees under more narrow circumstances. This new ordinance, passed by the council this February, protects our taxpayers while allowing the town access to individuals having needed skills and experience.

A former councilman criticized the repeal as paving the way for my administration to hand out “patronage jobs.” I do not determine who works for our community based on party affiliation, but on job performance and qualifications. Of the many jobs that the first selectman has the power to appoint, I changed only three. Two who are not receiving a pension and the other, the town attorneys. One of the “new” attorneys was a town attorney nearly a decade ago, and served during a time when such attorneys were town employees and participated in the pension plan. He collects approximately $900 per month in benefits, which cannot be changed up or down. He did not voluntarily retire to collect these benefits; rather he was replaced by the former first selectman.

During my campaign, I pledged to reduce town attorneys’ fees, and I have. Even with the pension benefits received by this individual, the town will pay less in attorneys’ fees than under the previous administration. He is now an independent contractor and not entitled to any town benefits. More importantly, he is a highly qualified attorney who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience back to our community.

The replacement ordinance addresses the issue of double dipping without preventing deserving and qualified former employees from continuing to serve our community. The replacement ordinance is better thought out, better written, and better for Trumbull.

First Selectman Vicki Tesoro,