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Retirement Payouts Questioned

by Thomas MacMillan | Jul 3, 2013 6:18 pm

(17) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Labor

Paul Bass, Allan Appel Photos When city Building Official Andy Rizzo retired in April, he cashed in 115 days of unused sick time and collected $43,848.72. That was one of two costly pay-outs to departing DeStefano administration officials that may have violated a city contract, depending on whose interpretation you believe.

Rizzo collected that money less than two months after retiring public works city chief John Prokop received $24,349.83 for 64 days of unused sick time.

Cherlyn Poindexter, head of the city’s managers union, called both payments illegal under the language of their contracts.

She called both sick-time payouts are a violation of the contract covering senior mayoral appointees, and should not have been made at a time when the city has been seeking concessions from unions like hers.

Mayoral spokeswoman Anna Mariotti said the payments were standard procedure and enshrined in the contract covering Rizzo and Prokop.

Who’s right depends on the interpretation of Article 8 of the Executive Management and Confidential Employees Personnel and Procedures Manual. The article, which covers sick time, includes the following statement: “Employees hired before November 15, 1991 who leave City service in good standing shall be paid for all sick leaves accumulated to a maximum of 120 days, at the rate of pay in effect at the time of retirement.” The manual is silent on employees hired after Nov. 15, 1991.

Mariotti said Rizzo and Prokop were entitled to their sick time payouts because the city hired them before Nov. 15, 1991.

Poindexter said Rizzo and Prokop are not entitled to the payments for two reasons. First, although they were hired before 1991, they were hired to different positions from they retired from, positions not covered by the executive management contract. Second, both men left the city’s for years before returning—after 1991—to work as part of executive management.

In Prokop’s case, he was originally hired as a city cop, working on a separate contract with different terms. He eventually left that post and worked for 17 years as the head of security at Southern Connecticut State University. He was hired as the director of the Department of Public Works in 2007. He retired in February.

Rizzo was originally hired as an assistant building inspector in 1990. He left in 1993 to work in North Branford, then spent five years in Windsor. He was hired in 1999 as New Haven’s building official. He retired in April.

“Both Andy Rizzo and John Prokop originally began with the city prior to 1991, so they were entitled to the sick severance pay,” Mariotti said. She said Article 8 states that any member of executive management who was hired by the city before 1991 is entitled to up to 120 days of sick time pay at retirement, regardless of whether they started before 1991 in executive management or whether they were continuously employed by the city since then.

Melissa Bailey File Photo Poindexter (pictured), whose union recently signed a new contract with the city, said she sees it differently.

“This is not personal, but I don’t think it’s right,” she said. “Especially in a time when the city claims there is no money.”

The city has been calling for concessions in union negotiations, she said. “Now the city is giving away money that clearly these folks are not entitled to according to their contract agreement.”

“Yes they were here before 1991,  but they left then came back,” she said. “You cannot bridge those gaps that they had. They were clearly not entitled to payouts for sick time.”

“Something should be done to recoup these funds,” Poindexter said. “My people can’t retire early ... because the city said it has no money, but they’re paying people that they don’t have to pay.”

Poindexter said sick-time payouts like these need to stop, since the city will likely see a wave of retirements under a new mayor next year. “They are all appointed. They all have to got when the mayor goes.” If all the retirees get big sick time payments, it could add up to “half a million if not a million dollars,” she said. “That’s money the taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay.”

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posted by: anonymous on July 3, 2013  6:35pm

If it’s not illegal, it clearly should be.  The blame probably rests with the lawyers and managers who left the language open to interpretation. 

Now someone who was hired by the City as a lifeguard for a few days in 1967, but came back to work for the City a few years ago, can collect 120 days of sick pay.

posted by: Webblog1 on July 3, 2013  8:06pm

“Mariotti said. She said Article 8 states that any member of executive management who was hired by the city before 1991 is entitled to up to 120 days of sick time pay at retirement, regardless of whether they started before 1991 in executive management or whether they were continuously employed by the city since then”.

I seriously doubt the reading of article 8 as Marriotti is quoted here.

Even though Rizzo and Prokop were hired before Nov. 1991 is inconsequential to the fact that each of them left city employment,  and at that time they were entitled to collect unused sick and other compensation time. How do we know that they didn’t?

It is highly unusual for a employer to allow the carrying of sick time over a period of years absence. Particularly where neither the employee or the city know that the employee would be returning.

According to Mariotti’s woeful interpretation of the management agreement, which has changed several times during the absence of these individuals, they would have had to waived collection of unused time upon leaving the city the first time, with an expectation they could return at a later date and resume adding to sick time as if they had never left. Besides, those conditions are not written in the police/union contract prior to 1991.

Common sense should tell Mariotti that once one leaves the employ of any employer, all vacation, compensation and sick time, automatically shall cease.

Marriotti should examine the facts with the executive management union and her Corporate Counsel before continuing to advance this obvious violation CT state labor department regulations.

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on July 3, 2013  8:58pm

Maybe the Unions should think about this a little as they throw all of their support behind some megalith candidate who will be impossible to pry from office for the next 20 years.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on July 3, 2013  9:16pm

What is surprising is reaction to the corrupt conduct of those who work within the upper levels of management, whether a municipal employee, employee of a private entity, managing the affairs of an institution of higher education, high ranking officers in the military, or those involved in the fields of medicine (hospitals for example). In most cases , not all, but in most, there is an ego at work that gives cause to this type of unethical, immoral, and greedy, behavior. And it is accepted by those responsible for their conduct, as those chosen to lead these individuals, is of the same brand, and sees nothing wrong in behavior like this. It is chronic and sickening, and the actions currently occurring in Egypt, and the origins of our own country, were a response to behavior such as this. The question remains, “how much will the American public take, before the majority take action?”

posted by: Noteworthy on July 3, 2013  10:05pm

This type of language that allows unlimited collection of unused sick time is an abomination to taxpayers. Sick time is not additional compensation. It is a benefit that allows you to be sick without penalty up to a certain number of days each year. If you don’t need it, don’t use, you should lose it. That is accrues is an amazingly stupid rule and rooted in a long history of gross mismanagement of city finances. This is right up there with longevity pay, accrued vacation days and all the rest.

When the new mayor comes in, this ridiculous practice should be eliminated.

posted by: formercommish on July 4, 2013  12:57am

Andy Rizzo deserves his payout and more, where were all the detractors when he was saving the City thousands and thousands of dollars with his expertise as both Building code official and head of LCI. I say he got what he deserved and maybe not enough. Andy thank you for all your years of service, I for one will miss your tenacity and knowledge.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 4, 2013  9:10am

Former Commissssssssh:

That’s utter nonsense. If Rizzo did a good job, it is what he was supposed to do, was expected to do. Frankly, he did ok - he was not great. He was very quick to condemn buildings and order them torn down under no bid contracts, with nothing more than his back of the envelope analysis. It cost the city taxpayers millions. Accruing any benefits beyond the benefit year is stupid, irresponsible and part of the culture of unholy alliances that have permeated city government for decades. All “benefits” should be use it or lose it - at every level of employee. Only in government do these types of benefits exist.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on July 4, 2013  9:57am

This may truly be the most liberal contract interpretation I’ve ever seen.  Though they were hired before 1991, they left the employment of the City.  If anything, they were only due the sick days they collected prior to 1991 for which they qualified for.  Upon leaving, they had to be “re-hired,” which most courts would say started a new contract with them based on their new post-1991 hire date.

That the City willingly handed over this money without requiring lawsuit is a travesty.  I have no doubt that not one of the candidates would have allowed or stood for this (and we all know I’ve got my candidate).  Regardless, I doubt the City will now be able to recoup the money.  In the mean time, we need to review all city contracts and have any unused sick time expire after a year or two.  By law, sick time and vacation time are not a right but an employee benefit that can be set with specific terms and limitations.

The City government needs to begin functioning more like a business in this respect.  After all, if I’m not mistaken, the City is the largest or second largest employer in New Haven.

posted by: FacChec on July 4, 2013  1:19pm

Not so fast Mariotti, Article 8 does not say:

up to 120 days of sick time pay at retirement, regardless of whether they started before 1991 in executive management or whether they were continuously employed by the city since then.

See the manual here:

http://cityofnewhaven.com/HumanResources/pdfs/EXEC MGMT & CONF POLICY (Dec 27 2011).pdf

See Page 7 of 31 :
EXECUTIVE MANAGEMENT AND CONFIDENTIAL EMPLOYEES
PERSONNEL AND PROCEDURES MANUAL
Effective 12/27/11

Article 8 - Sick Leave
Employees covered by this Manual shall earn and accrue sick leave at the rate of one and one-quarter (1 & 1/4) days per month of service. Credit for a full month will be given in any month an employee actually works or is on an approved leave with pay for at least ten working days.
Each employee shall be permitted to accrue sick leave to a maximum of 150 days.
Employees hired before November 15, 1991 who leave City service in good standing shall be paid for all sick leaves accumulated to a maximum of 120 days, at the rate of pay in effect at the time of retirement.

Again Mariotti is placing her own word to the article, it does not say:

“regardless of whether they started before 1991 in executive management or whether they were continuously employed by the city since then.

John Prokop for for the police department, that contract does not have the provisions as stated by Mariotti, he left the city for 17 years and returned in 2007 in executive management. 2007 is the start of his coverage under the manual, not 1991.

Rizzo was originally hired as an assistant building inspector in 1990. He left in 1993 to work in North Branford, then spent five years in Windsor. He was hired in 1999 as New Haven’s building official.
Rizzo’s coverage under the plan manual is 1999, not 1991. There is not evidence that Rizzo was under the plan in 1990.

posted by: formercommish on July 4, 2013  1:25pm

Noteworthy,

Do the math, he was doing two jobs that make over $100,000 a year and was definitely not getting paid that sum, not even close and he did this for several years saving the City hundreds of thousands of dollars. So don’t tell me he doesn’t deserve the payout, he does deserve that and more. Having seen his leadership in both positions Andy did a fine job, those who do not think so are entitled to their opinion as I am entitled to mine.

posted by: FacChec on July 4, 2013  5:51pm

2nd attempt:
Again Mariotti is placing her own word to the article, it does not say:

“regardless of whether they started before 1991 in executive management or whether they were continuously employed by the city since then.

EXECUTIVE MANAGEMENT AND CONFIDENTIAL EMPLOYEES
PERSONNEL AND PROCEDURES MANUAL
Effective 12/27/11


Article 8 - Sick Leave
Employees covered by this Manual shall earn and accrue sick leave at the rate of one and one-quarter (1 & 1/4) days per month of service. Credit for a full month will be given in any month an employee actually works or is on an approved leave with pay for at least ten working days.
Sick leave must be authorized and approved by the Department Head. Department Heads must get approval for sick leave from his/her Coordinator.
Each employee shall be permitted to accrue sick leave to a maximum of 150 days.
Employees hired before November 15, 1991 who leave City service in good standing shall be paid for all sick leaves accumulated to a maximum of 120 days, at the rate of pay in effect at the time of retirement.
In any year (12 months of service from employment date) that an employee utilizes 6 or fewer sick days, he/she shall accrue 3 personal days for the use in the next year. In any year (12 months of service from employment date) that an employee utilizes 4 or fewer than sick days, he shall accrue four (4) personal days for use in the next year.

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on July 4, 2013  6:39pm

formercommish

in 2008 Rizzo was paid $98,949
in 2009 Rizzo was paid $102,257

Are you saying he should have been paid over $200,000?

posted by: Noteworthy on July 4, 2013  7:05pm

Commish:

Let’s get real. LCI should not be a stand alone agency. It should be part of the building department and frankly, the way it is organized, with a director, deputy director, it’s run more like an adult day care than a city department. You could run all of LCI with three people - all inspectors, no more.

posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on July 4, 2013  11:08pm

Just one more way that the taxpayers take a beating. Doesn’t happen in the private sector. I wonder if any of the alders will review….just like tthey’re looking into claims of racial discrimination on the nhfd. I’d like to see where the mayoral candidates stand on the issue of unpaid sick time.

posted by: formercommish on July 5, 2013  10:23pm

Noteworthy

Nice rhetoric but how about some facts to back up your beliefs. I don’t want to hear how agencies should be run with three people which is just not realistic. If that were the case then we should close down the federal government as well. Give me facts not just talk, if you do, I will listen, if not then you said your piece as unconvincing as it was, but you said it and I have heard it.

posted by: Threefifths on July 8, 2013  8:25am

I am sick of hearing you union haters who keep saying the taxpayers take a beating.Read this.UNION WORKERS ARE TAXPAYERS TO.SECOND YOU CAN HAVE THE SAME BENFITS IF YOU TAKE A CIVIL SREVICE JOB OR FORM A UNION TO FIGHT FOR THE SAME BENFITS.Check out this package that taxpayers pay out and none of you are doing nothing about it.

Ex-Presidents’ Taxpayer-Funded Perks Include Phone Bills, Office Rent

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/ex-president-perks_n_1500636.html

or how about this.

Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, ...

Look at these Goodies.

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34631.pdf

posted by: Curious on July 10, 2013  10:09am

Three-fifths, I am sorry you feel that way.

I’m sick and tired of you always arguing FOR unions, no matter what.

Unions can be just as bad as corporations.  When ANY organization gets too powerful, it can become corrupt.

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