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New London police retirement deals remain murky

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published February 08. 2012 4:00AM

New London - The City Council refused Monday to fund enhanced benefits for two retired police captains and the deputy police chief, but what that means for the men affected by the decision is not clear.

Former Capt. William Dittman, a 35-year veteran of the department, has hired a lawyer and declined to comment. Former Capt. Michael Lacey, who had been with the department for 28 years, could not be reached to comment.

Former Deputy Chief Marshall Segar said he's going to wait and see what the city's position is on the matter. "But I can tell you, it's frustrating for all of us and our families," said Segar, who worked in the department for 21 years.

In a split vote Monday, the council refused to approve the three settlement agreements, which would have cost the city about $230,000 in additional benefits for the three officers.

Motions to approve each captain's contract failed by 5-1 votes, with only Councilor Wade Hyslop voting in favor. Councilor Anthony Nolan, who is a police officer, recused himself for all three votes and left the council chamber during discussions.

A motion to approve Segar's contract failed by a vote of 4-2, with Hyslop and Maynard voting in favor.

"I didn't approve it based on the numbers,'' Council President Michael Passero said Tuesday. "If they (the administration) want to spend money, they have to come to us and tell how much they want to spend and what the money is for.''

Passero said Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio and his staff negotiated the contracts without the council's knowledge and came looking for the money after the fact. He added that he has yet to see an "appropriation ordinance" that would lay out how much money is needed for each contract.

The mayor's executive assistant, Zak Leavy, said the mayor stands by his earlier statements.

In a previous statement, Leavy said that " ... the (police) union was notified during the negotiation process of these retirement packages. The Law Director's office and Personnel Coordinator negotiated these retirement agreements and informed the Mayor that they were valid. The Mayor believes they are fully lawful and will be honored by the City of New London."

Even without the enhancements, Dittman and Lacey are entitled to generous retirement packages, based on the police union contract, according to Bernadette Welch, the city's personnel director. She said both captains were stepping down with disability retirement packages, which include health benefits.

Segar, whose one-year contract was not renewed, will receive a year's pay and a year of paid insurance premiums, according to the terms of his contract.

The extra, according to Welch, was to be $21,000 for Segar and $29,000 for Dittman. Lacey would receive a $20,000 payment this year and another $160,000 over the course of four years, which equals $40,000 a year to cover the difference between his retirement benefits and his salary.

"We have to look at this from a truly financial perspective,'' Welch said, adding that it's cheaper for the city to pay the retirements than to retian the two captains, who she said were missing work because of health issues.

"There really is a value here,'' she said. "It's just difficult to see the big numbers."

Under his agreement, Segar was set to receive a year's pay of $105,000; a year's worth of insurance coverage; a $21,000 contribution to this retirement fund; and $1,000 for each year of employment, or $21,000.

Lacey and Dittman were to continue to receive their salaries - about $1,700 a week - through July 1. Both men will receive compensation for all unused sick time, vacation and comp time, equal to about $100,000 each.

Passero said Tuesday that an explanation of the contracts and an overview of the financial impact of the retirements have never been provided.

"The numbers that she's giving you, she's never given them to the council,'' he said of Welch.

The three settlement agreements represent just a few of the retirements since Finizio took office Dec. 5. City Clerk Michael Tranchida and Assistant City Clerk Dawn Quinn both took early retirements and Tax Assessor Barbara Perry retired. Keith Chapman, special assistant to the city manager, who was in charge of planning and development and public works, also retired.

Passero said the council has yet to see an accounting of how much the retirement packages have cost the city.

The police union has filed a municipal prohibited-practices complaint against the city for negotiating directly with the captains and not including the union.

Councilor John Maynard cited the union complaint as one of his reasons for voting against the captains' deals.

New London Police Union Local 724 President Todd Lynch could not be reached to comment Tuesday.

In October 2006, the state Board of Labor Relations, which oversees union complaints, found the city had dealt directly with Officer Michael Meehan in allowing him to opt out, without union notice, of his city health insurance plan. That finding ordered the city to stop dealing directly "with employees concerning mandatory subjects of bargaining," required the city to pay six months of health insurance cost sharing for union members and ordered the city to pay fees and costs, including attorney fees, related to the complaint.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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