1. #1
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    Jun 2004

    Default City of Bridgeport now ****s on retired firefighters now

    Police, fire retirees lose prescription benefits

    Retirees lose drug benefits Move stuns ex-cops, firefighters

    By BILL CUMMINGS bcummings@ctpost.com


    A firestorm erupted Tuesday over the city's decision to eliminate prescription drug coverage for more than 200 uniformed-services retirees.

    The new policy was quietly announced through a July 30 letter sent to about 220 former police and fire department employees, all of whom retired after June 30, 1997. The letter advises those retirees that prescription drug coverage will no longer be provided.

    The change does not affect working police officers and firefighters, who receive drug coverage under their contracts. It also means that firefighters and police who retired before 1997 will continue to receive drug benefits under their benefits deals with the city.

    Other city unions also have prescription coverage and are not affected by the policy.

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    City officials defended the move as necessary to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in yearly costs. Those whose benefits have been cut, however, contend that since they have been receiving coverage, it's unfair to take it away now.

    "They told us we would have the coverage, and all of a sudden they yank it from us," said Tom O'Leary, a retired firefighter now living in North Carolina.

    Mayor John M. Fabrizi said his proposed budget had included $360,000 to cover the benefit for the new fiscal year that began July 1, but the City Council cut that funding. Fabrizi did not veto the reduction by the council.

    The mayor said the prescription drug coverage was not included in contracts with the two unions during the period in question, but was granted to retirees by former Mayor Joseph P. Ganim. Fabrizi said retirees cannot claim the new policy is a contract violation.

    "It can't be considered a past practice because [the drug benefit] was never approved by the council. It's unfortunate. It's been proven to me that the benefit was outside the contract. These are difficult and tough decisions that had to be made," Fabrizi said.

    The issue apparently hinges on language changes made in contracts governing fire and police officers who retired after 1997.

    The city believes the changes meant the drug benefit did not have to be paid, while firefighters and police officers believe it does.

    In a letter announcing the change, Edmund Winterbottom, the city's labor relations director, blamed tight city finances.

    "The city has been facing difficult financial circumstances. With prescription drug costs increasing at an alarming rate, the city must do what it can to control expenses," he wrote.

    Retired firefighters and police officers say they feel cheated.

    "This is a long-established past practice. They violated the contract and we are not going to stand for it," said David Boston, a retired deputy policy chief and former head of the police union.

    Boston, who lives in Shelton, said retirees plan to the take the city to court.

    Robert Whitbread, president of the Fire Department union, said he has received "tons" of calls from irate retirees. "My ear hurts," he said.

    "We are seeing what we can do. We think they are totally wrong. It says in the contract that they get the benefit and now they want to play games. We are upset," he said.

    Whitbread said one option may be to take the city to court, although he cautioned that no decision has been made.

    Mayor Fa

    The drug benefit provided $1,000 yearly for prescription costs, with a patient contribution of $5 per prescription. Afterward, the city paid 80 percent of drug costs and the retiree paid the remaining 20 percent.

    Some retirees said state law prevents a municipality from changing benefits already offered to retirees. A bill that would have prevented such a move was brought up this year but failed to pass. The bill died due to extensive lobbying by a variety of interests, including the city's hired lobbyists.

    City Council President Andres Ayala agreed with Fabrizi, saying the city did not have to continue paying for the benefit.

    "We saved $360,000 for the residents of Bridgeport. I'm glad the mayor did not veto [the reduction]. I understand how they feel, but we are living through the language of the contract," Ayala said.

    City Council member Robert Walsh, D-132, said he voted against the current budget. But, he added, it's wrong to take away a benefit retirees were receiving.

    "They should not eliminate benefits previously granted. That should be the subject of collective bargaining," Walsh said.

    Bill Cummings, who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6230.

    Mayor John Fabrizi,Winterbottom,Andres Ayala are same people who want felon Firefighters on City of Bridgeport Fire Dept

  2. #2
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    DaSharkie's Avatar
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    Jun 2000


    My former department had it written into their contract that the town would still pay for 75% of a retiree's health insurance (which covered drugs). This is another lesson to be chalked up into the category of making sure it is in writing in a contract to enxure that a city does not play games and dishonor the years of service from an employee.

    I wonder if this has anything at all to do with the ruccus caused by the city trying to put on convicted fellons and unions / departments fighting it.
    "Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like." Will Rogers

    The borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7 - Debt free since 10/5/2009.

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  3. #3
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    nmfire's Avatar
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    Nov 2002
    Maryland (DC Suburb)


    The management of the city of Bridgeport never ceases to disgust me.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  4. #4
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    Feb 2004


    Do other city retirees have this benefit?

  5. #5
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    Nov 2003

    Thumbs up

    Bob Kelly and Dave Boston (Bpt. police , also victims of Emperor Winterbottom )have set up a legal defense fund called the Uniformed Services Retirees Legal Fund to raise money for the anticapated fight to keep the current prescription plan for retirees.Mayor Fabrizi told both the police and fire union presidents that the issue would be brought up before up before the City Coucil ( the final word) at the September 7 council meeting.(be there).
    On Thursday August 26 at 6:30 pm there will be a meeting at the Germania Swaben Hall AT 416 Horace St. Bridgeport in anticapation of questions about the fund.All persons involved are asked to make a donation to the fund in the recommended amount of $100.
    Retired fire personnel can contact Patrick Lombard at 203.445.8195 patbfd@yahoo.com or Larry Bussell203.735.1448 larry@conn.net

  6. #6
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    Jun 2004


    Bridgeport reverses on drug coverage

    Prescription benefits to stay Fabrizi to find funds for cop, firefighter retirees

    By BILL CUMMINGS bcummings@ctpost.com


    The city is expected to reverse its controversial decision to end prescription drug coverage for more than 200 retired police officers and firefighters.

    Mayor John M. Fabrizi, a Democrat, has scheduled a meeting of the City Council's Democratic caucus tonight in his office. Sources said he will inform council members the benefit will be reinstated.

    The reversal comes as retired police and firefighters make plans to raise money to sue the city to reinstate the benefit. A fund-raiser is scheduled later this month.

    The Democratic caucus consists of 19 of the 20 City Council members. The council has only one Republican, Thomas Freer of the 130th District.

    Fabrizi confirmed that he will tell council members city administrators now believe they erred in stripping retirees of the coverage, and will seek advice and support for finding $360,000 to pay for the coverage for the fiscal year.

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    "My recommendation to the council, after receiving additional information and further research, is it's best to reinstate these benefits," Fabrizi said.

    "My interpretation is it's a contractual obligation. Some may call it a mistake or a misinterpretation. I can see how it could be called all of the above," Fabrizi said.

    Based on conversations with council members, the mayor said he believes the council will support his decision.

    The two leaders of the fire and police unions are invited to the caucus, Fabrizi said. He said he has also called Freer to update the Republican.

    The city suddenly announced last week, through a letter to retirees, that drug coverage would end for police and firemen who retired after June 30, 1997.

    The decision would have affected about 220 former uniformed-services employees and was to take effect in October. Police and fire employees who retired earlier than 1997 were not affected by the policy change.

    A firestorm erupted among firefighters and police, who said the policy was unfair and that they had been promised

    and were receiving

    drug coverage.

    Robert Whitbread, president of the firefighters' union, said he received "tons"' of calls from irate retirees.

    "We think they are totally wrong. It says in the contract that they get the benefit and now they want to play games. We are upset,"' he said after the new policy was announced.

    David Boston, a retired deputy police chief and former head of the police union, said he's organizing a meeting of retirees to raise money to sue the city over the cut.

    Boston said he's heard about the scheduled caucus, and is aware of rumors that Fabrizi was about to reverse course. Still, he said, fire and police retirees will continue planning for a lawsuit until coverage is restored.

    "If that's what they do, that's fine and there will be no reason to take action. We are upset about this. There is no question that we are entitled to the benefits," Boston said.

    He said the union contract covering the former employees lists a few exemptions for retirees, like the loss of vision and dental coverage. But, he stressed, prescription drug coverage is not among those exclusions.

    Boston scheduled the fund-raiser for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 26 in Germania Schwaben Hall on Horace Street. Retirees are being asked to contribute $100 each to begin the suit.

    "If this just a misunderstanding, the city must identify it and correct it. A lot of people are upset and worried and concerned," Boston said.

    Sources said city officials believe the contract language can be interpreted as giving them the right to cancel the benefit. But those sources acknowledged the opposite argument can also be made, based on the same language.

    As a result, officials opted to restore the benefit, partly out of fear they would lose in court, sources said. The city is expected to raise the issue of retirement benefits during future contract talks.

    Bill Cummings, who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6230.

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