June 25, 2008
Pension Adjustment Sought for Retired Dunmore Firefighters
By Jessica Durkin, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
Jun. 25--DUNMORE -- The president of the Dunmore firefighters' union says 13 retired firefighters are entitled to the same cost-of-living adjustment recently paid to retired police officers or their spouses.
Dominic Rinaldi, of Dunmore Firefighters Local 860 and interim pension supervisor, said Tuesday he will submit a letter this week to council with a request to adjust pension payments for the firefighters who have retired since 1998. He said a clause in their union contract from that time stipulates retirees "shall also receive a COLA in the same form and manner as that received by borough police officers."
"It's one paragraph, it's very simple: If they owe it to the police, they owe it to the Fire Department," Mr. Rinaldi said.
At issue is whether the firefighters are entitled to the same arrangement the borough made with police officers in the 1990s to pay pension cost-of-living increases beyond standard provisions. The arrangement was made as an early retirement incentive to control payroll costs at the time.
The borough has since fought the arrangement, and 10 retired police officers and three officers' widows successfully sued the borough. County Judge Terrence Nealon this year ordered the borough to pay $162,402 to the retirees and spouses covering the last six years, and to honor future cost- of-living increase payments at the arranged rate.
The police retirees who sued the borough are receiving 70 percent to 80 percent of their retirement income plus cost-of-living benefits, which is more than the standard 50 percent of salary with living cost increases until 70 percent of the salary is reached.
Mr. Rinaldi said the retired firefighters have approached borough management over the last several years for a cost-of-living adjustment, but their requests have been denied.
Council leadership has criticized past councils and the pension board for the arrangement's cost, which has to be paid from the general fund and will affect this year's budget.
Council Vice President Jerry Hart said he believes the arrangement and court order only applies to the police in the lawsuit, and may not apply to the firefighters.
"Not every policeman got a COLA -- it is only those 13 that (we approved payment for)," Mr. Hart said. "Anybody else is not eligible and not covered by Judge Nealon's order. They are a special 13."
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