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Rilling’s 2 checks are better than one for city coffers

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling 112213 045
Mayor Harry Rilling said he will not be increasing his city pension he earned with the police department unless he serves eight years.

Correction 12:01 p.m. Dec. 16: Changed medicaid to Medicare.

Story updated 12:59 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, with explanations from Finance Director Tom Hamilton.

NORWALK, Conn. – Fact: Mayor Harry Rilling is drawing two checks from the city of Norwalk – a pension worth $86,000 earned during his time as a Norwalk Police officer and then as Chief of Police, and an $118,000 salary as mayor.

Fact: The first fact is not costing the city a nickel more than if someone else had been elected mayor. In fact, the city saved a small amount on health insurance when it elected Rilling, who receives Medicare but gets his supplemental coverage as a retired Norwalk cop.

The city may have also saved an additional $24,000 when Rilling beat former Mayor Richard Moccia. Several months ago, the Common Council voted to give the next mayor a 21 percent increase, from $114,524 to $138,468. Rilling vowed he would not accept the raise if he was elected. Moccia did not make any such vow.

Rilling said he would only qualify for additional pension if he serves as mayor for eight year or more, which is not quite accurate. He also pointed out recently that, as he has been a government employee for most of his life – 41 years with the NPD, plus his Navy hitch – he cannot collect social security.

Norwalk Finance Director Tom Hamilton clarified Rilling’s statements regarding insurance and pensions.

“As a non-public safety city employee, Mayor Rilling is a participant in the city’s 401a Defined Contribution Plan (we closed the city defined benefit pension plan to new hires effective July 1, 2012, so unlike Mayor Moccia, Mayor Rilling is not a participant in the city defined benefit pension plan),” Hamilton wrote in an email response to our inquiry. “The city puts in 5 percent of salary, and the employee must match the 5 percent. The employee vests in the city’s contribution after five years of service. If the employee leaves prior to five years, then the employee forfeits the city’s contribution (i.e. – the contribution is returned to the city).”

That would mean that, if Rilling serves only two terms as mayor, he would not receive any additional city-funded pension. If he were to serve three terms, he would be vested and receive the city-funded position.

“Mayor Rilling’s Police Pension is not affected by his employment as mayor (i.e. – he does not earn additional credit on that pension),” Hamilton said.

“With respect to medical insurance, because Mayor Rilling is Medicare eligible, certain expenses which would otherwise be paid by the city medical plan will be paid by the federal government under Medicare,” Hamilton said. “Therefore, this may result in savings to the city. The city is self-insured for medical expenses, and his supplement to Medicare is what is provided by the city for all police retirees. Because we are self-insured, we do not pay a traditional monthly premium to our health insurance TPA. We pay for actual claims cost, and a small monthly admin fee per employee. In the case of Mayor Rilling, we save the monthly admin fee by not having him on our insurance, but the claims cost will be whatever they are. So, the most significant savings is from the fact that he is Medicare eligible, not that he has declined coverage on the active employee health plan.”

Hamilton also clarified Rilling’s social security situation.

“The mayor pays into social security in his current position (as mayor), so the employee portion of social security is deducted from his pay. This is required under federal law. The police are exempt from social security, and are not entitled to social security benefits for their Police employment. I cannot say if Mayor Rilling will be entitled to any social security benefit when he retires, because it would depend upon whether he has earned enough quarters in social security from employment outside of his work with the Police Department. Given the fact that Mayor Rilling spent most of his career with the Norwalk Police Department, I would not be surprised to learn that he did not accumulate the necessary quarters with social security to be eligible to collect a social security benefit. However, his time as mayor will count toward that accumulation of quarters. I would also add, however, that individuals who spent most of their career in a position that did not participate in social security do not receive the full social security benefit even if their do accumulate the necessary quarters from other employment.”

Severance pay is another issue.

The mayor actually agreed to give back some of his severance money when he “retired” in 2001 in a deal that was a forerunner of Norwalk’s DROP plan.

Rilling received a $30,791.67 payout back then, including unused sick pay, vacation pay and terminal pay (a day’s pay for each year of service). He was actually entitled to an additional $15,395.80, but waived it as part of his retirement deal that saw him rehired on a contract akin to a consultancy, meaning he would get no further pension and benefits other that what he had already earned.

“I had virtually given back 150 vacation days that I never took,” Riling said. “The four weeks vacation pay that I did get represents 20 days, so I think I really gave back 164 days, something like that, because I had over 184 days of vacation on the books because of a few years when I had no deputy chief and there were things going on. I just couldn’t take vacation. So … it just built up and built up, with the understanding that if I was to leave I could get some consideration for being paid, reimbursed for those days. But I just dropped the issue and I never really followed through on it.”

Rilling’s payout was considerably less than what Deputy Chief Rosemary Arway received when she retired in 2008 after 28 years on the job. Arway, who qualified for a $77,707.70 annual pension, received a $90,739.62 payout when she retired, more than half of it in unused vacation time ($49,976.28).

Rilling’s payout was also less than what ex-Mayor Richard Moccia received when he left office. Moccia received $44,025.16 based on his final rate of $58.5052 per hour. The payout included $26,327.34 in unused sick time over his eight years, plus $10,969.73 in unused vacation and $3,656.58 for accumulated and prorated vacation time (62.5 hours). His terminal pay was $3,071.52.

Moccia is also collecting a pension based on his eight years in office.

“Under the terms of the Norwalk City Employee’s Pension Plan,” Norwalk Finance Director Tom Hamilton said in an email, “Mayor Moccia is entitled to a pension of $1,494.48 per month,” or $17,933 a year.

Alex Knopp, who served half as long as Moccia (2001-2005), received $6,897.48 on his way out, based on a salary of $45.9771 per hour. He received no terminal or unused sick pay; his payout was all unused vacation pay.

Comments

29 responses to “Rilling’s 2 checks are better than one for city coffers”

  1. C.G.

    Does he receive Medicaid or Medicare?

  2. anonymous

    @Chapman Rilling is your man, we know that. You didn’t like MOccia, we know that. Convoluted math to support an argument that somehow taxpayers are getting a ‘better’ deal paying $200,000+ a year doesn’t fly.

    The only thing your math highlighted was the ridiculous level of retirement payouts this city gives to public employees and union members, whoever they are. Rilling is a union man. Rilling will cost this city millions in givebacks to the unions above/beyond his salary.

  3. dlauricella

    Interesting discussion!
    I think by charter, if a Mayor is reelected a 3rd time and completed five tears of service, they become eligible for a pension.
    Two lessons learned:

    When voters evaluate a candidate at the 3rd election, pay attention to performance and valid concerns better, instead of “sitting idly by” and not hold person more accountable for their actions, which happened in the case of Mayor Rilling’s predecessor).
    Taxpayers could demand more stringent threshold (ie. must be elected, say a 3th or 5th term) for mayoral pension ( as well as an across-the-board review of all upper and midlevel positions).

  4. EveT

    You might want to correct the grammar in the photo caption. “…unless he serve eight year”?

    1. Mark Chapman

      Thanks Eve. Late night typos. They are fixed.

  5. Don’t Panic

    You must be referring to Medicare, the senior health care program, not Medicaid, the health care program for the poor.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Don’t Panic
      Yes, indeed. Correction made.

  6. Get it right

    As a salaried employee medicare will become primary coverage . Also the city will now have to pay social security on his behalf . Too the city will need to contribute too the pension

  7. McKeen Shanogg

    Apparently some commenters don’t know that Federal law requires pensions to be disbursed to the designated persons who are entitled to them. People cannot refuse their pensions. The pension funds administrator must search for the designated person if he or she does not come forward, even to the extent of hiring a private investigator. If the designated person or their heir cannot be located after due diligence, the Federal government gets the money. Pension funds are covered under IRS regulations as a tax deferred form of income.

  8. M Allen

    @McKeen – don’t take this as my opposition to the Mayor collecting his paycheck and pension, but you’re not entirely correct. There are in fact laws against double-dipping, pension or not. It all depends on the jurisdiction and the laws in place.

  9. lael

    “The first fact is not costing the city a nickel more than if someone else had been elected mayor….”

    What your saying is true if “someone else” had been elected mayor. The fact is, the someone that got elected is a retired employee of the city who is getting his pay as mayor AND pension. Your article certainly doesn’t look at the taxpayers’ perspective on this issue.

    Mayor Rilling as Chief Rilling drained the city’s pension fund by $1,032,000 during the 12 years he double-dipped and now he’s doing it again. If he wants to be mayor, fine. Turn off the pension while back actively employed by the city. Give him the $24,000 increase to the mayor’s salary he so proudly states he’s not taking. You can’t do that in corporate America and increasingly you can’t do that in the public sector either.

    The way I figure it, this amount he took could’ve paid 34 years of a patrolman’s pension. WE taxpayers pay the bulk of what’s in that fund. Your article certainly doesn’t represent the taxpayers point of view but that of Mayor Rilling’s solely.

    Our governor has only vetoed two bills this year out of 192 that came before him. This bill would’ve allowed Maturo, East Haven’s mayor to resume collecting his firefighter’s disability pension AND his mayor’s salary. If our own governor (who’s about as pro-public sector employee as you can get) thinks what Rilling’s doing is wrong then clearly it is.

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill Friday that could have allowed the mayor of East Haven to resume double-dipping by collecting a disability pension as a former firefighter while being paid $75,000 as mayor.

    Malloy’s veto message did not refer to the controversy over East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr., whose pension status was the subject of a recent story in the Hartford Courant.

    “Under this bill, retirees would be able to continue collecting full retirement benefits and receive compensation for full time employment,” Malloy wrote.

    Maturo had been collecting a $40,000 annual pension until the payments were suspended after he won election as mayor in November 2011.

    State officials in the comptroller’s office, which administers the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System, said he could not collect the pension while on the municipal payroll.

    The bill Malloy vetoed would have allowed the collection of a municipal pension if the employee was not in a municipal position that qualified him for additional pension benefits.

    “I believe this bill would impose an undue burden on municipalities and is inconsistent with the purpose of the municipal retirement system, which is intended to provide assistance to our retirees and not current employees,” Malloy wrote.

    The bill was the second Malloy has vetoed in 2013. He has signed 192 bills.

    http://www.ctmirror.org/story/2013/06/21/malloy-veto-blocks-double-dipping-municipal-pensions

  10. anonymous

    quote from Malloy ” inconsistent with the purpose of the municipal retirement system, which is intended to provide assistance to our retirees and not current employees,” Malloy wrote.”

    Retirement and pension system in Norwalk is so rich for public employees that they ‘retire’ and still have 10 or 20 years left to earn more income. Pensions like Rillings are unheard of in private businesses but then they don’t have the luxury of deep-pocketed exhausted taxpayers.

    Rilling won’t take the $20,000 raise, well, isn’t that BIG of him.

    The fact that this article passes as ‘reporting’ is unfortunate.

  11. Suzanne

    There seems to be a misunderstanding about what is done in the private sector in terms of pensions and future earnings. As an example, I have known people to give their entire lives to civil service, receive a pension, then go on to consult for civil service and receive payment for that consultation. Likewise, a person may work for a long time for a private entity, receive a pension (into which all employees must pay, private or public sector) and go on to pursue another line or the same line of work at a different company. Particularly with the financial downturn and the “golden handshakes” many received as severance to their employment, pensions are paid out while the same employee has secured work and earnings elsewhere.

    Mayor Rilling earned his pension as a public employee who paid into the system for decades. Likewise, he is earning the right to be paid for a job as mayor. Why this is considered “double dipping” or somehow taking advantage of the system is beyond me. I don’t know of anyone who takes on such difficult positions as Mayor Rilling and expects to work for free. He should not be penalized for serving his Town as an employee or as Mayor with some distinction. Those who think this is a ploy to somehow assuage the unions or is a harbinger of favoritism to unions to come are taking their paranoia a bit too far. One should be paid for the work that they do – that is all the Mayor is doing.

  12. lael

    @ Suzanne

    I think you really should read what Gov. Malloy said on this topic when the SAME issue was raised in East Haven. If you didn’t read my earlier response, please do and see if you still feel the same about this issue.

    East Haven’s mayor was trying to collect his firefighter’s pension AND his current salary and Malloy was against that. Mayor Rilling’s doing just that. Malloy said that double-dipping is an “undue burden on municipalities and is inconsistent with the purpose of the municipal retirement system, which is intended to provide assistance to our retirees and not current employees.”

  13. Suzanne

    Governor Malloy worked as mayor of Stamford for many years. I do not know what he did prior to that. You mean to tell me he receives no compensation in the form of benefits or pensions from that work as mayor? That his sole source of income is for the job he is doing now? Even if that were the case, ask yourself, when was the last time you did a very hard job or any job at all for free?

  14. lael

    @Suzanne

    Clearly the governor, as you pointed out, is a former mayor himself and he considers the practice of collecting TWO checks WRONG. I don’t think he could be any clearer on the topic. I don’t know whether or not he was in Stamford long enough to qualify for a pension but he vetoed a bill that would’ve permitted East Haven’s mayor to do what our mayor is doing right now.

    Regrettable that NON is so clearly biased in favor of the new mayor that a full representation of all the points of view on this issue are at no time presented. Even titleing the piece “Rilling’s Two Checks Are Better Than One For City Coffers” tells you exactly where they’re coming from. At no point is there ANY consideration for those of us who have to pay the tab for this outrageous double-dipping. This so far has cost US $1 million–and our million $ mayor will continue to rake in even more with the distorted coverage provided by NON.

    I hope the Council takes up this issue and puts an end to this drain of the City coffers.

  15. Keen Observer

    @Iael
    You say that “Turn off the pension while back actively employed by the city. Give him the $24,000 increase to the mayor’s salary he so proudly states he’s not taking. You can’t do that in corporate America”.
    .
    You are wrong. I know many people who retired from “corporate America” with pensions and, even while drawing the full pension and Social Security benefits, went back to work for their old employers as consultants, often at even higher pay than they earned while employed.
    .
    It has become common practice for US corporations to offer early retirement to long-time employees as a way to cap the liability arising from the defined benefit pension plans that are no longer available to new employees. They then rehire the former employees as contract workers so that they don’t have to offer benefits. Even at higher pay rates, the companies save money on total employee cost.
    .
    No one in the real world calls this “double-dipping”.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Keen

      We have updated the story with some explanations from Norwalk Finance Director Tom Hamilton about pension, insurance and social security. We have a few other inquiries out and will likely update further.

  16. Suzanne

    Thank you, Keen Observer, for your observations. I have shared the complaints expressed here with business people in finance, downtown NYC, and they look at me like this idea has three heads. I don’t get it: would it be preferred that those who want to be of service to the community NOT get paid what they have earned and/or paid into over many years? That they NOT run for office because, somehow, in this crazy way of thinking, they would no longer earn the pension they worked decades for? It makes no sense. I further maintain that not a one of these naysayers have worked for free in their lives nor have they given up their retirement to consult and/or hold public office.

  17. anonymous

    @Suzanne, point,there should be no defined benefit pensions for anyone, let them have 401K’s or CD’s or savings accounts or social security.

    Don’t know who you talked to in NYC but few non-public sector workers have a defined benefit pension, making $85,000/yr FOREVER, received 10 years before hitting legal retirement age. Rilling is double dipping costing taxpayers $200,000 a year and plans to sell us down the river to the unions.

  18. M Allen

    Everyone that keeps quoting Malloy’s comments on the East Haven issue need to realize that he vetoed the law because of the Mayor of East Haven. He allowed his administration to backdoor the same issue for another employee out of New Britain. But until an ordinance is passed in Norwalk, double dipping of this kind is allowed. Play by the rules or change the rules.
    .
    As for the city right now being out any extra money, they are not. Pay Harry a pension and elect another Mayor, same cost. The pension fund will still pay Harry and the city will still pay the mayor.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @M. Allen, et al

      Your are correct. From the state Office of Policy and Management via Gov. Malloy’s office:

      “Norwalk police and fire as well as their regular employees are not members of the Municipal Employee Retirement System (MERS). There is no state involvement. Therefore, whether or not he (Rilling) can collect both would be determined under their own plans or plan.”

  19. Some Are More Equal than Others

    Keen Observer and Suzanne like to point out that the same thing goes on in the private sector.
    .
    Maybe. But there is a difference.
    .
    In the private sector if you own a certain percentage of the company, you get a proportionate share of the management decisions regarding compensation.
    .
    In the public sector, if you work 80 hours a week and happen to live in a nice house in Rowayton you get to pay $25,000 in taxes to the city and you get the same equal say as someone who doesn’t lift a finger and gets $80,000 in welfare benefits.
    .
    So with all due respect your comparisons to the private sector is a nice try at justifying what you obviously support, but in the end is a very hollow point.

  20. M Allen

    It’s not even about MERS. The city’s pension plan is not part of that and is thus governed by our ordinances here. However, some try and make the case that good old Gov. Malloy is so dead set against it and he isn’t. He’s just against the Mayor of East Haven getting both. For those who don’t know that is the guy known as “Mayor Taco” for making a remark about going to get tacos after something happened up there involving police and Hispanics. Anyway… the point is that even though Malloy vetoed the bill, the office of the comptroller allowed a retired New Britain employee to collect their MERS pension while also being paid as an employee in Hartford. Good old Malloy didn’t seem to mind that so much. The point is, using his veto as the argument is a bad one considering what he allowed to be back-doored elsewhere. Believe me, I used that argument in the past until I dug a little deeper into the politics of it.
    .
    For all those who are dead set against double-dipping, consider this: for the mayor’s position, it doesn’t cost the city one extra dime. So move along on that one. A different issue is the DROP plan for the unions. Keeping experienced workers on a few more years isn’t always a bad thing. Unfortunately it doesn’t just apply to workers who are in key positions. Like a chief or other high-ranking person where that experience is a good thing. But do we really need to keep on a low-level employee like a patrolman or firefighter? Do these roles meet the need of keeping on the experience? DROP is a useful tool, but to have it built into the contract for everyone is unnecessary. It should be used to keep key people, not just allow a low-level worker to stay on a few more years. That si where it costs the city money.

  21. M murray

    Seems like a few people are penny wise and pound foolish. They are ignoring the fact that the city is saving money by having Mayor Rilling not taking the raise and the city not contributing to additional medical benefits. Focus on what we are saving. Any other mayor would be coating the city more than it is now. That is the fact.

  22. Suzanne

    SAMEO, I do not understand your point. Most who work in the private sector or many, anyway, do not own a percentage of the company and receive salaries that include medical and retirement benefits. If you work in the private sector, you get paid to do a job and you pay into a benefits system for retirement income. Government jobs, paid for by taxes rather than profits, have a salary with benefits including a retirement plan into which a portion of income is paid. Each type of job receives compensation for providing a service, work, depending upon what sector of private enterprise or government the job is in. At no time is it expected that either type of employee would work for free by forfeiting the benefits to which they are entitled and the compensation system into which they paid. If local governments don’t like paying employees or consultants or elected officials who have been previously employed by that municipality, that policy should be made clear. I wonder how many qualified and good people would then run for office knowing that either their retirement or their salary would be forfeited in service to their community? “Keen Observer” above describes a retirement scenario that is very common in the government as well as the private sector. I don’t agree with Malloy’s take on this at all and feel that our taxes are going to the correct place in paying Mr. Rilling all that he has earned in his lifetime as a public servant.

  23. M Allen

    Worse than rules against double dipping are the laws that apply to 16 states including Connecticut that reduce the amount of Social Security benefits for government employees who retire, collect a pension, and then take another full-time job and pay into SS fully. Even though they paid into SS fully for perhaps 20 years, they will get a dramatically reduced SS benefit based on double-dipping laws

  24. Don’t Panic

    @More Equal,
    Nobody is receiving $80k in benefits from welfare. Anybody who chooses to believe something like that is fortunate to never have had to feed a family of four on less than $5 a day. Try it for a week to understand how hard poor people wind up working for those “benefits you decry.

  25. TG

    I really don’t understand why anyone would expect the mayor to forfeit pension benefits he worked decades for because he has a totally different job within the same city that pays him. If you end up, I don’t know, retiring and taking a job as a national park ranger, would you expect to give up your SS benefits? It does, in fact, benefit the city that they don’t need to pay for two benefits packages. And I agree, who would ever want that job then? Rilling could have taken a job in the private sector and been better off.

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