Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why public pensions can be news

Why do we publish stories detailing the pensions of recently retired public employees? 

The Freeman has, in relatively short order, published stories about the pensions of former Kingston Police Lt. Timothy Matthews, former Kingston schools Superintendent Gerard Gretzinger, and, today, former Kingston Police Chief Gerald Keller.

Some readers question whether this is news. 

buff351 wrote on Feb 25, 2012 5:08 AM:
" With all the crap going on it is easy to start picking on numbers.... I am not a cop, this man did what he could. Every city in the United States wishes it was better. For the Freeman to start throwing salaries around for the soul purpose of winding the community up is wreckless. Do not get me wrong the stuff with the PD and FD is horrible. But not everybody was involved. This man ran that dept to the best of his ability, hes not under investigation.... and for those of you PRIVATE citizens that think his job was easy you lost your mind,he should be getting twice as much....... "

Mypov wrote on Feb 25, 2012 7:28 AM:
" Why have you linked Keller in with a convicted fellon and an inepted school official that has ties to the corruption of that felon. He also has no ties to the FD scandal going on. If he has been instrumental in helping to lower the crime rate in the city, then let his merrits stand by them selves to show that he deserves his pension. That's my POV! "

Veteran wrote on Feb 25, 2012 7:50 AM:
" buff351 - you got it right! Another low for the Freeman. What are they suggesting? Should the Chief who worked 40 plus years have his pension reduced because of a bad cop? Newspapers like this one make me sick in their reporting. "

We think it is news for a variety of reasons.

First, there are the obvious facts that public pensions are 
a) largely funded with public tax money and 
b) markedly more generous than pensions in the private sector. 
It’s one thing to say that, it’s another to spell it out in particulars with the cases of retired local officials. The issue of pensions is currently front-and-center in state politics, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo supporting reform that would reduce the current and future obligations of taxpayers and public unions and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who manages the state pensions fund, adamantly opposing such change.

Further, one might make the case that it’s the generosity of the pension system that can lead to quick retirements when the going gets rough, as it did with Gretzinger and Keller, each implicated in some way with the Matthews case. Neither has been charged with any criminal or civil wrongdoing, but Gretzinger was in charge while Matthews double-dipped as a school security guard and Keller was Matthews’ superior while the lieutenant was stealing money out of a department safe. Their job performance was roundly criticized in the wake of the Matthews scandal prior to their respective announcements of plans to retire. Why stay in a job that’s become aggravating when a comfortable retirement is available?

Also, in the case of Matthews, state law entitles Matthews to a pension for public service, despite felony conviction for stealing public money while on the job. That’s newsworthy. The plea agreement fashioned by Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright provides for Matthews to make restitution for what he stole directly from that pension. And that's newsworthy.

Finally, we do write stories about how much top officials will be paid when they are hired and when their contracts are renewed. It only makes sense to close the circle and tell readers what they will be paid in retirement from the public pension fund.


Blogger p51djm22 said...

Fine.I'm sure you have a defined benefit pension plan Mr. Adamis, we're paying your salary and benefits. Is your pension available for public scrutiny? How about the pensions of the governor and the legislature? I don't see any thing in the Freeman about those... Do you, or any of those others lose their pensions upon conviction of a felony? Can you retire immediately if your job should be imperiled?

February 25, 2012 at 7:43 PM 

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