Petition asks RTM to review recent cop, fire brass retirements
A petition urging government transparency in the recent retirement and rehiring of top fire and police officials will be acted upon by the town's legislative body next week.
On July 20, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) will vote whether to recommend that other town boards review the potential cost and implications of having the recently retired fire chief, deputy fire chief and police chief collect a pension while staying on the job indefinitely.
The petition was started by Westport resident Don Bergmann, who had been following the pseudo-retirements of the chiefs, and collected the 35 signatures needed to have the RTM consider it.
He said the goal of the petition is not to sway people's opinions about the retirements and rehires, but to start a discussion and possibly explain some aspects of the deal that appear to be unclear.
"I don't know where it can go because it's not intended to direct the RTM aside from asking them to give some thought of it," Bergmann said.
"It's very, very open-ended," said Hadley Rose, moderator of the RTM.
Bergmann's petition specifically asks that "the continued employment of the employees by the Town of Westport, including the financial terms, length of employment, financial benefits or detriments and the policy implications to Westport, its citizens and other Westport employees, be reviewed by the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance."
After the two boards review those items, the petition asks that "a public vote be taken by each such body expressing their support for, opposition to and/or any other views or judgments which those bodies believe appropriate resulting from those reviews."
Finally, the petition asks that member of the RTM discuss any action by the selectmen or Board of Finance.
On June 28, three-decade veterans -- Police Chief Al Fiore, Fire Chief Christopher Ackley and Deputy Fire Chief Jonathan Gottfried -- had their retirement requests approved. If the chiefs did not retire with a retroactive date of June 1, their health-care costs would have skyrocketed.
Although they retired, there is a month-to-month verbal agreement that allows them to continue working until a contract is worked out, or until they decide to leave the job. Until then, the chiefs collect a pension and paycheck.
Ackley and Fiore, who were both hired on July 10, 1978, will have annual pensions totaling a little more than $126,000 each. Gottfried will be receiving $116,680.
First Selectmen Gordon Joseloff said that the new contracts would have to be economically beneficial to the town.
The Representative Town Meeting will convene at Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Ave., at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 20.