Hiller's exit deal triggers debate over retirement rules
Updated 1:12 pm, Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Fallout from the ouster of Fairfield's longtime chief fiscal officer continues to spark controversy among town officials.
During a Representative Town Meeting discussion Monday of a legal opinion regarding the rules of the Employee Retirement Board, David Becker, R-1, the RTM majority leader, launched an attack on the current and prior Democratic administrations.
Ed Bateson, R-3, had asked for the opinion because he does not feel the retirement board's rules allow for former CFO Paul Hiller's base salary to be bumped up to increase his pension payout. A negotiated exit agreement with Hiller, forced to resign last summer by First Selectman Michael Tetreau, states that for pension purposes his salary will be bumped from $134,591 to $155,600 immediately before he officially leaves the town payroll on June 30, 2013.
Bateson wanted to know the RTM's role in setting the retirement board rules. Town Attorney Stanton Lesser responded that the body basically has only veto power over any rules proposed and adopted by the retirement panel. Lesser also said those rules state an employee's pension is based on his or her highest salary in the fiscal year they retire, which he said is consistent with the agreement reached with Hiller.
"I, quite frankly, read it quite differently," Becker said, pointing to the Hiller negotiation as an example of "a never-ending attempt to usurp the authority of the checks and balances in the town code and town charter."
He said that "at every single turn, there's been something else that keeps coming up. You have a view of it, and it seems quite a few people have a different view on it."
Tetreau said money has already been spent on getting legal opinions on the departure agreement, but "we can certainly continue to spend money on attorneys." He added that he wasn't sure anything would ever satisfy everyone 100 percent.
"Unfortunately, the reason we keep spending money is the decision that come out of your administration," Becker said, prompting several RTM members to ask the moderator to intervene because they felt Becker was going off-topic.
Moderator Jeff Steele did step in, at that point, while Bateson said he would like further clarification in writing from Lesser because he believes the retirement rules mean that a pension needs to be based on what an employee has actually received via a paycheck.
Lesser said if what Bateson said is correct, that would mean that a person who retired six months into the year would have their pension based on the pay for that six months alone.
He and Bateson agreed to discuss the issue further, with Bateson sharing the details of the discussion with fellow RTM members.
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