Cops sue Milford in pension dispute
Brian McCready , Assistant Milford Bureau Chief 06/17/2004
MILFORD — The police union sued the city Wednesday, claiming the city breached the union’s contract and refused to negotiate in good faith when it merged pension funds in 2002, a top union official said.

The lawsuit comes two weeks after an arbitration panel ruled the union did not file its grievance with the state Labor Board in a timely manner and therefore the union’s claim against the city would be dismissed.

The arbitration panel’s ruling allowed the city to continue to merge pension funds, which Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. said has saved taxpayers $6 million over three years.

Richetelli urged the Board of Aldermen in 2002 to reduce the city’s annual contribution to the police and fire retirees supplemental pension fund for cost of living increases from $2.6 to $1.87 million.

The union immediately filed a grievance, claiming any changes to the pension fund had to be negotiated.

The city merged the supplemental pension fund into the city’s pension fund because it was so strong. The city’s pension fund is more than $80 million over-funded, the mayor said.

Police Union President Jeffrey Matchett said the suit claims the city breached its pension contract that requires any changes to the 2001 agreement to be negotiated. The legal action seeks to force the city to negotiate with the union, Matchett said.

"The city violated a pension agreement that was negotiated and bargained upon in good faith," Matchett said.

Matchett said the arbitration panel’s ruling was not unexpected because the arbitrators ruled the grievance was not filed in a timely manner, and did not rule on the merits of the union case.

Matchett said the suit does not seek punitive damages.

Richetelli declined comment Wednesday on the suit.

Richetelli, however, said the arbitration panel confirmed his belief that merging the two funds was a "wise, prudent financial step to take."

Before entering arbitration, the union and city attempted a settlement. The city offered to reduce the pension contribution of union members from 6 to 5 percent of weekly pay, but it was rejected. If the union had accepted the city’s offer, it would have saved the department’s 105 officers a collective $90,000.

Matchett said the police union wants to save taxpayers money, but also wants a fair deal. He said if the pension changes were to save taxpayers $6 million, then officers should receive more than $90,000 in benefits.

Matchett said enhancements the union wants in its pension fund would not cost taxpayers because it will all come from the pension fund, and not the general fund.

Brian McCready can be reached at bmccready@nhregister.comor at 876-6800.

©New Haven Register 2004

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