20 percent of police department considering retirement

Many concerned over possible loss of benefits

Posted

The Warwick Police union (FOP Lodge No. 7) has indicated that about 37 police officers (more than 20 percent of the department’s 172 uniformed officers) are considering retirement due to uncertainty regarding a new collective bargaining agreement, and that as many as 18 officers of varying rank have already begun the process to go forward with announcing their retirement.

These retirements, according to multiple sources with connections to the police department including union president Jed Pineau, if all acted upon would significantly impact both the detective unit and essentially eliminate the computer forensics unit – of which Warwick is the only police department in Rhode Island apart from the State Police to have a full complement of officers dedicated.

“It would effectively shut down that unit,” Pineau said of the computer forensics unit, explaining that the team deals with extraction of data primarily from cell phones and video surveillance systems.

Such forensic work was largely utilized in the recent investigation and capture of the perpetrators who committed the armed robbery and murder of Fernando Silva (Captain Freddy). The highlights of that digital forensics work was recently portrayed in the Investigation Discovery documentary series “See No Evil.”

Pineau expressed his disappointment and concern last week about the Warwick City Council opting to hold discussions regarding the approval of a tentative agreement reached with former Mayor Scott Avedisian in April until their July 16 meeting. The current contract is set to expire June 30.

“We don’t know what's going on. We were hoping [it would be held] for [the next meeting on] June 18,” he said. “We didn’t really get any reason.”

Still, Pineau remained optimistic that the union would be able to work with Mayor Joseph Solomon and Colonel Stephen McCartney towards a new agreement. Pineau said the union has a history of compromising when the city needed them to make concessions, such as in 2009 when the department delayed their contractual pay raises by 17 weeks and reduced their numbers through attrition to help the city balance its budget during hard financial times.

Likewise, Pineau said in 2012 the department changed from a 20-year to 25-year pension for new hires and, since 2012, retirees no longer get guaranteed 3 percent COLAs, rather they receive 75 percent of the consumer price index. Additionally, he said, in the most recent contract reached in 2015, the union agreed to no longer guarantee retirees family health plans. The union also agreed to forego $1,000 bonuses for each member offered by then-mayor Avedisian, which saved the city over $150,000.

“We have always sat down and given compromises and given concessions,” Pineau said. “I think we have shown our ability to work with all parties in a negotiation.”

As for the reasoning behind delaying the contract negotiations, City Council President Steve Merolla said on Monday that the council was placed in an unfavorable position by not being able to see the tentative agreement until right before Avedisian announced his impending retirement, only to be compounded upon by city finance director Bruce Keiser announcing his own retirement immediately prior to budget hearings beginning in late May.

“We're not fulltime employees,” Merolla said. “I have a job and I have to do my job during the day and only have so much time during the night time to review these things.”

Merolla added that the contract has compounded on itself for decades, meaning the current tentative agreement includes provisions going back to 1972. He said that in order to perform their due diligence for the taxpayers, it would be irresponsible for the council to try and rush their review of the contract.

“There's a significant amount of work to determine the cost [of the agreement] and the CFO [Keiser] and CEO [Avedisian] have left. Those are the people that negotiated the agreement, and so to say you should be able to turn it around in two weeks would be a disservice to everybody,” he said. “If you try to buy a house it takes over a month, but you write a contract and it's supposed to be done in two weeks?”

Merolla said he didn’t understand why people were reacting so strongly to the situation, as even if an agreement isn’t reached once the current contract expires, the same provisions will carry over at least until a new deal is reached.

“I don’t get the rationale to be concerned,” he said. “The folks that are retiring are locked into an agreement…Worst case scenario they're in the same situation.”

The alternative is, as Pineau explained, if the council decides to tweak the agreement in a way that the union finds disagreeable. Then, in theory, the contract could head to arbitration, where it would be out of both the city’s and the union’s hands as to what becomes contractual regarding retirement and healthcare benefits. It is a situation where officers considering retirement know what they are dealing with now, versus not knowing what could happen down the road.

“There's always the potential that it needs to be renegotiated and something might be changed,” said Pineau.

Colonel McCartney, meanwhile, said on Monday he has not received any official notices of retirement outside of those that were scheduled before any concerns about the contract were raised. He urged patience and level-headedness going forward and indicated he was in active talks with Solomon and the union representatives.

“I continue to remain very optimistic that things will work out. And at the same time, I have one job – to make sure this department functions and continues to function and continues to deliver services to its constituents,” he said. “To me, this is a waiting game and I, once again, can only hope that every officer who is thinking about this thinks in a very level-headed fashion and makes the right decision for him and his family.”

Both McCartney and Pineau are focused on finding a resolution and getting back to work.

“We'd really like to get this going so guys can get to work and continue doing what we do,” said Pineau.

“I'm not worried about anything right now,” McCartney said. “If people do retire between now and July 17, then I'll continue to work with the people I do have. I'd hate to lose those people, but we'll continue to march.”

Adding to the concerns regarding retirements is a report that as many as 32 members of the Warwick Fire Department are considering retirement as they face their own impending collective bargaining agreement coming to an end on June 30. However, the city has yet to even reach a tentative agreement with the IAFF, and there have been no discernible updates in that area at this time.

Mayor Solomon did not return an email of inquiries regarding contracts as of press time.

Comments

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davebarry109

“I don’t get the rationale to be concerned,” he said. “The folks that are retiring are locked into an agreement…Worst case scenario they're in the same situation.”

I thought Mr. Merolla was smarter than this. The guys worried about the next 3years don't necessarily want to retire. They will if the benefits change substantially. What is going on now is the unknown. Do they leave now, without a job, and hope to get one? Do they stay and potentially lock in a loss? Do they retire and hope for the best job wise?

For all the talk of great pensions, going to 50% or 60% or so of you pay without another opportunity is not doable for most. There is an alternative, and that is to sign an agreement that would guarantee those eligible to retire as of June 30th that they could go out under the current contract up to 30 days after the new contract is signed. That would avoid a mass exodus.

Tuesday, June 12
BUBBABURGER

Fyi for concil. Don't waste our tax money grandstanding. Recent Beacon Jan 2018 article highlight:

“Mayors come and go, town administrators come and go, town managers come and go, but unions have a continuity in leadership and institutional organizations,” he said. “So the arbitrators that are paid $2,000 or $2,500 a day, they have an interest in making decisions that are not going to alienate them from organized labor. It's a horrible process.”

Ragosta said binding arbitration should be “avoided at all costs.”

Tuesday, June 12
MoeMedeiros1

Funny that Marolla speaks about language in the Police Contact that has been there for over 20 years, actually closer to 30 years and now it is an issue, how long has he been on the City Council and it was never an issue before. And others on the council think that if you keep kicking expenses down the road 6 months that some how it makes the situation better . . . but no it does not. The city will still have to replace a firetruck and police cars. No one expects that the City is going to have an open checkbook, but this agreement offers up a benefit that could be potentially be worth as much as $120,000 to $150,000 per member at todays rate. Multiply that times 172 that equals minimum $20,640,000.00 Its ironic that City Council meeting is monopolized by talk about FD sick time and switches. You have two contacts that are pending for City employees, would it not have been more prudent to deal with those two issues, then sick time and switches for the FD who do not even have a tentative agreement pending (this should have been postponed until July 16). People want to be Mayor and Council President . . . then you have to be able to put the pen to paper . . . and yes sometimes stick up for City workers who go out of their way to help the Citizens of Warwick every shift!

Tuesday, June 12
richardcorrente

Both sides are in a delicate contract situation. No one predicted that so many decision makers would abruptly retire. (i.e. Bruce Keiser). Now Warwick is facing a June 30th deadline and I am reflecting back on acting Mayor Joe Solomons' decision to "not get involved" in the budget preparation when Avedisian invited him to do so in an offer of unity. That decision seems even more damaging today then it did when he announced it. Communication is the most important part of ANY contract negotiation. We are lacking it here and at the Firefighters contract discussions as well. "Mayor Solomon did not return an email of inquiries regarding contacts as of press time." is not in the best interest of the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab. As Mayor, I would never deny a request to sit and talk or email-respond to The Beacon. Acting Mayor Solomon can't afford to either.

Happy Summer everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Wednesday, June 13
Thecaptain

As mayor of the Munchkins, would you sing with the Lollipop Guild?

Wednesday, June 13
Scal1024

"I would never deny a request to sit and talk"

For almost 4 years Rick "tax delinquent" Corrente has refused to answer even basic questions about his campaign .

For example, part of his campaign "plan" is a voluntary pension buyout. Why wouldn't he use this opportunity to comment here and explain to voters how this program would work? The answer is because HE HAS NO IDEA. There are simple questions Mr Corrente refuses to answer, and this is just ONE of his ideas. This applies to ANY of his campaign proposals.

Basic questions on the voluntary pension buyout such as:

-How many city employees are eligible to retire?

- How many city employees will be eligible for this voluntary pension buyout program?

- How much $ total would each employee be offered to walk away? Instead Corrente decides to launch an attack. Why? He doesn't have ANY IDEAS to fix Warwicks most serious problems.

Without knowing the answer to ANY of these questions, how can Mr. Corrente know his voluntary buyout program would save ANY $? If he doesn't have the answers now, how can he honestly say he's done a cost analysis of this program? Again, this is only ONE PROGRAM. This also applies to his "buy a house, get a check" program (that he hasn't told voters how he'd pay for), his plan to pay 50% of all seniors and veterans car taxes, his plan to raise beach fees (without knowing how much the program costs) and his "spending cuts" even though he hasn't named ONE AREA OF SPENDING HE WOULD CUT.

I'll leave voters with 2 quotes from Rick Corrente praising then Council President Joe Solomon:

"They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. He hasn't. His father is a class act and Joe Jr is the next generation. I have listened to him agree with those in the state house and I have heard him disagree. In both cases it was with the same level of "total respect".

I support this young man, and I recommend the reader does as well"

- Rick Corrente Thursday, Sept 1st 2016

"The 2017 City Council held the line on taxes for the 1st time in 18 years. The CRITICS said it couldn't be done and you did it.

(Corrente continues after thanking each Council member by their first name...)

I have called myself the taxpayers mayor because I feel that I am a servant of the Warwick taxpayers. Now I have a new phrase the City Council is now "The Taxpayers City Council.

Congratulations to 9 of the hardest working peoole I know"

- Rick Corrente Tuesday, June 6th 2017

Its funny how 1 year ago Rick Corrente felt Joe Solomon was "(one) of the hardest working people (he) know(s)" and 1 year later he tries to attack him just to try and score a couple political points. The only thing thats changed is Joe Solomons declaration to run for Mayor. Why has Rick Corrente suddenly found so much fault in Joe Solomons character, when he was overwhelmingly praising him 1 and 2 years ago. I think its safe to say whose character really deserves questioning here. Not the public servant who's dedicated the last 18+ years of their life to the taxpayers of Warwick like acting Mayor Solomon. The person who deserves their character being questioned is the erratic, tax delinquent, bounced check passing, failing FAKE mayor Corrente. Real, hard working taxpayers see right through this liar and his empty campaign promises. I cannot wait until Corrente is embarassed in another election.

Wednesday, June 13
PaulHuff

I have to ageee with Moe Medeiros. To claim the contracts have to be read is laughable. The City Council ratified the last contract so they know what it contains. So really they only have to figure out is whether they approve of the already budgeted for raises, and any language changes. And I’m sure those few changes are highlighted or put on a one page cheat sheet.

It was sad to see so few cops at the Gaspee Days Parade. Morale must really be in the toilet.

Wednesday, June 13
Cat2222

As a taxpayer I certainly don't want to see my taxes raised, however, when it comes to the WPD I have nothing but respect and admiration for the officers and leaders.Colonel Stephen McCartney has proved his ability to keep our city safe and the men and women on the force are really integrated into the community. Also, as stated, they have compromised when necessary and shown that they want to work together and not against. I hope they can negotiate an acceptable contract for both sides so we don't lose some really great officers.

Wednesday, June 13
Daydreambeliever

If you think the FD hasn’t made concessions you would be wrong.

In 2009 they took a 5% pay cut in order to help the city in tough times.

The 2012-2015 contract they had no raises for 3 years also assisting the city in a critical time.

They also turned down the $1000 per member bonuses offers by the mayor for a savings of $200k.

They’ve changed there pension also from 20 to 25 years to serve and reduced the pension payout from 75% down to 70% max.

Also when retired it’s not a family plan it’s a single plan.

So to say they FD hasn’t made concessions is a flat out lie.

They have made concessions just not to the pleasing of some.

5 days ago
The_Riddler

DEM ARRESTS WARWICK MAN FOR ILLEGAL DISPOSAL OF GASOLINE IN SEPTIC SYSTEM

PROVIDENCE: A Warwick man was arrested today for allegedly disposing of gasoline by pouring it down the drain at his business. Robert Cote, 39, of 12 Social Drive in Warwick, was arrested by DEM Officers at his place of business and arraigned before Judge Walter Gorman in 6th Division District Court in Warwick. He was charged with a single count of unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste. Cote entered no plea, as typically occurs in felony cases. He was released on $5,000 personal recognizance and faces an arraignment in Superior Court on August 14. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. The RI Attorney General's Office will be prosecuting the case.

According to Sr. Agent Giusto Iannelli, of DEM's Office of Criminal Investigation, the Warwick Fire Department was called to Cote's business, the Pro Divers Shop at 2442 West Shore Road, on April 30 after a neighbor in an adjacent strip mall heard an explosion and observed smoke coming from the dive shop. The fire department responded and extinguished the fire, but an officer at the scene noticed a heavy smell of gasoline coming from the facility. Cote admitted to placing a container with less than a gallon of gasoline in a sink to see if the gasoline was contaminated. Cote claimed that the fumes from the gasoline were ignited by a spark from a hot water heater.

The fire officer at the scene called DEM to determine if there was a remaining hazard. John Leo, a Sanitary Engineer with DEM's Emergency Response Unit, responded and found that a considerable amount of gasoline was present in the septic system. Leo determined that the situation constituted a threat to public safety and the environment, and he immediately called CYN Environmental to come to pump out the septic system.

Subsequent lab tests indicated that there was at least 20 and perhaps as much as 30 gallons of gasoline in the septic system, enough to pose a significant danger of a major explosion. Leo noted that if the fumes had backed up overnight in the pipes and vents associated with the septic system, the result could have been disastrous.

In addition to today's arrest, DEM officers, assisted by officers from the Warwick Police Department, executed a search warrant and removed evidence from the scene.

Lying Rob Cote

5 days ago
WwkVoter

Hey "Riddler" those accusations were DISMISSED after tests proved NOTHING went down the drain. I would not be making the FD look bad if I were you by publishing disproven accusations that turned out to be quite suspect in the first place.

Just stick to the issues which is overtime and shift swapping costs. Firefighters enjoy a good image and now you are jeopardizing that with this kind of thing.

5 days ago
Daydreambeliever

Wwvoter how many times does it need to be said shift swaps don’t cost the city a dime.

I just can’t comprhend why people just don’t understand this.

I know certain people will message here claiming otherwise but when andnif they do audit an it’s proven they did nothing wrong it will quiet some of the chatter.

5 days ago
Daydreambeliever

Even though it may not be much of a savings and the council is looking for each department to make cuts how about the council forgo there healthcare.

They now have to serve 2 terms only 6 years to get healthcare FREE for life yup 6 years.

Prior to this it is was only one term and 3 years.

I don’t see Stacia and Bobby or Robby chirping about this. Now this is a total scam as they run for office voluntarily for the good of the community supposedly.

Imagine that a city worker via being a police officer, firefighter, municipal employee has to work over 20 years to obtain this benefit but the council only has to do 6 !!!!!!!

You want to start somewhere why don’t we start here at the top of our city.

To me as a taxpayer this is a travesty !!!!

5 days ago
Thecaptain

So now we can completely show how Daydreambeliever has no idea of what he is talking about.

There is no lifetime healthcare for council members any more. It ended with Steve Coluantonuo in January of 2009. Furthermore, prior to that time, council members had to serve 3 terms or 6 years (each term is 2 years not 3 as this nit wit has stated). So obviously, Daydreambeliever is not a registered voter because if he was he would know that in Warwick we vote every 2 years because terms are 2 years. WHAT A DOPE !!

In addition, if he actually was informed he would understand that it was Bob Cushman, while he was on the council, that sponsored the ordinance to eliminate the healthcare provision for council members. It passed in Jan.09, but in an effort to allow Coluontuono to be exempt from the ordinance, Bruce place moved the ordinance up 2 weeks to allow Coluontuono to get the benefit. And guess what, after his 3 terms he was out the door with a 1/2 million dollar benefit.

Here is more spin from this clown:

"The 2012-2015 contract they had no raises for 3 years also assisting the city in a critical time."

What he doesnt tell you is that during the above mentioned time period, virtually every man earned an additional 30% over his base pay thru step increases and overtime. Overtime was thru the roof and in fact, I obtained random W2 forms from 3 fire fighters, Jordan, Maymon, and Colantonio who between these three, earned an additional $238,180 dollars in overtime.

I then obtained the 3 year salary rates and end of year total salary which showed (with exception to those on IOD) every man made significant more money during the "PAY FREEZE PERIOD". I will share that data with anyone who wants it.

"They also turned down the $1000 per member bonuses offers by the mayor for a savings of $200k."

What he doesnt tell you is that they turned down the "bonus" to bargain to increase the unused sick pay from 50% - 75%. That amounts to an 8.2% annual pay raise (on top of the 9% for the 3 year contract) and in the first year, that negotiation had a cost associated with it of $649,421. And that was only the first of 3 years. The line item for that perk went from $443,000 to over $1 million bucks. This year was $1,000,144.

So he can spin it any way he wants but the numbers dont lie. Just go to the city web site and go to the budget documents and look at Fire Dept. (Dept 35) and look at line item 35-116.

This man has zero factual knowledge.

5 days ago
Straightfactshomie

Captain,

What I see when I look at the FD budget is personnel costs that have grown, on average, 1.3% a year over the last ten years. Thats slower than inflation, and slower than the rest of the municipal budget. Total FD spending accounts for 1% less of the municpal budget now than it did 10 years ago! Hows that for out of control FD spending! And over this time frame, the WFD call total has grown nearly 15% The WFD effective tax rate is approx $1.58 per $1000 (7.6% of $20.80) Why dont you compare that rate to other VOLUNTEER DEPTS, let alone other paid FDs? How do we compare with Cranston, a comparably sized city? Cranston spends nearly 35% more ($8 million!!) to staff a FD that is 11% smaller (min manning of 46 for warwick, 41 for cranston) and responds to 20% less runs, with an OT budget over double that of the WFD!

We can have an honest conversation about what the FD should cost, and if any efficiencies can be found. But that requires facts, not just accusations. Some perspective, listening and good faith on all sides would go a long way. So please lets knock it off with the hyperbole, criminal accusations, and general tone surrounding this discussion.

5 days ago
WwkVoter

Daydream, you know the order of credibility in a court proceeding?

Least credible - when the information comes from someone whom it would benefit

Most credible - when the testimony comes from someone whom it would hurt, or from impartial expert witness

Get an audit.

5 days ago
Bob_Cushman

2012

Retired Employee Benefits = $1,904,471

Active Employee Benefits = $824,820

All Other Expense = -$1,210,925

Total New Spending = $1,518,366

2013

Retired Employee Benefits = $2,976,565

Active Employee Benefits = $1,479,485

All Other Expense = $578,559

Total New Spending = $5,034,609

2014

Retired Employee Benefits = $1,015,500

Active Employee Benefits = $109,105

All Other Expense = $976,679

Total New Spending = $2,101,284

2015

Retired Employee Benefits = $2,023,659

Active Employee Benefits = $2,320,921

All Other Expense = $135,306

Total 15 Year New Spending = $4,479,886

From 2005 - 2019 cumulative 15 year new spending (spent equal amount of new revenue on retired employees then active)

Retired Employee Benefits = $23,831,278

Active Employee Benefits = $23,811,682

All Other Expense = $7,548,489

Total 10 Year New Spending = $55,191,449

From 2010 - 2019 cumulative 10 year new spending (spent more new revenue on retired employees then active)

Retired Employee Benefits = $16,438,035

Active Employee Benefits = $12,484,637

All Other Expense = $7,907,019

Total New Spending = $36,829,691

From 2015 - 2019 cumulative 5 year new spending

Retired Employee Benefits = $8,259,042

Active Employee Benefits = $10,017,650

All Other Expense = $7,545,390

Total 5 Year New Spending = $25,822,082

It is pretty clear that the issue in this city is that retired employee benefits are consuming so much of the budget that all other area of the budget are being negatively effected. Keep in mind the school budget today is less than the 2010 budget.

Just about 50 cents of every new tax dollar collected today, pays for retiree benefits.

Over $9 million is spent each year from the city budget on retiree healthcare costs. On the school side that amount is $600 thousand dollars.

What the stakeholders in the city need to do is develop a plan where cost saving can be realized by reducing the cost of legacy benefits and redistribute those saving back into compensation, benefits and tools that the existing employees need to perform future services. At this point even with a maximum tax increase every year, this city cannot meet the new revenue needed to provide existing municipal and educational programs and services while meeting escalating retiree expenses.

Hopefully we can all contemplate these numbers, not attack me the messenger and continue with a civilize debate.

5 days ago
Bob_Cushman

I hate trying to post number using the Beacon site looks like some of the figures go jumbled. 15 year new spending was $55 million. 10 year $36.8 million

5 days ago
The_Riddler

More from LYING ROB COTE

5 days ago
WwkVoter

Straightfactshomie, that was a good post, thanks for the numbers. I was also going to contemplate the FD cost as a percentage of the total city tax levy, and then ask how much less that would be if the critics got everything they wanted.

Your number is 7.6% of our residential tax rate. Lets say we could somehow reduce the FD costs by a whole 20%, now it would be 6.08%. On a $200,000 residence, their tax bill would drop from $4160 to about $3995 - approximately a $65 annual savings for the average homeowner. These are all very approximate for discussion.

We need to find all the efficiencies that we can but lets keep the potential savings in perspective too.

4 days ago
Thecaptain

Here's a question:

I have a list of all of the WFD retirees and their "out the door" compensation for the last 3 years. How is it that with one exception, every man has retired with the maximum amount of unpaid sick days and the maximum unused vacation days?

The answer is commonly referred to as CHANGE OF SHIFT.

4 days ago
Straightfactshomie

"By the way, we did a survey in Uganda where the Ebola virus is spreading like wildfire. The only place on Earth that has more sick days than Uganda is the Warwick Fire Dept. Take a look at the virus colony."

Captain,

That is a direct quote from a comment of yours less than a month ago. You now claim that FFs are banking sick time by utilizing COS.

WFD sick time usage is flat through out the year. Q1, Q3, and Q4 sick usage is nearly identical, with an uptick in Q2 with call outs in November and December accounting for the entirety of the increase. That increase bleeds into Q3 with January also showing a higher than average call out rate. I wonder what could possibly lead to an increase in sick time in NOV, DEC, and JAN?

As for COS, totals are higher in Q1 and Q3, but drop in Q2 and Q4 with no correlation with to sick usage whatsoever.

At the budget hearing on 5/31 you stated the WFD used 1652 COS in fiscal 2017. A year in the FD consists of 33580 shifts (46 FF x 2 shifts per day x 365 days). So COS account for 1652/33580 or 4.9% or all shifts worked. So on average a FF takes a change every 5 weeks, or 1 out of every 20 shifts for a job where half of all shifts are overnight, 6 out of every 8 tours fall on all or some portion of a weekend, and depending on how the schedule falls, a single platoon could work nearly every major holiday in a calander year. This isn't meant as a statement on "how hard FFs have it." Its simply to show that FF's time off often doesn't correspond with the rest of society. There aren't a lot of kids birthday parties, LL games, or family gatherings at 10am on a Tuesday.

As for the 206 “unreciprocated” shifts, they represent just 6/10ths of 1% of all shifts. A number that severely undermines your assertion that this is some sort of wide spread “scam” or abuse of the system. And the arbitrary start and end dates to the data further skew any conclusions drawn from the numbers. A FF could take a COS on the night of 6/30 and repay that shift back on the day of 7/1 and your analysis would show an unreciprocated shift even though back to back shifts were swapped.

4 days ago
Straightfactshomie

I should add that FFs used sick time at a rate of 3.78%. A number that is in line with national averages.

4 days ago
The_Riddler

Lying Rob Cote

4 days ago