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Independent Counsel to Review Firefighter Retirements, Pension Impacts

First Selectman Michael Tetreau informed the Board of Finance of his intent to hire outside counsel to review the matter of last-minute firefighter promotions and corresponding effects on the police and fire pension fund.

Independent counsel will investigate the matters concerning last-minute firefighter promotions and the financial impact on the police and fire pension fund, First Selectman Michael Tetreau told the Board of Finance Tuesday.

Last week, the Board of Selectmen questioned Fire Chief Richard Felner about a number of firefighters being promoted to the ranks of training officer, lieutenant, and chief only to retire weeks or days later, boosting the salary their pension is based on.

Selectman Kevin Kiley reported that these promotions -- some of them provisional, or temporary -- may cost the town as much as $1.8 million over 30 years in pension contributions.

Though fire and police personnel pay into their pensions, Fairfield has had to contribute to the town and police and fire pension funds for the past several years after not having to fund them for an approximately 10-year period, Board of Finance Chair Tom Flynn said.

The Madoff scandal of 2008 didn't help, but the town was "on the slope to contributing anyway," Flynn said. In fact, at the finance board's December meeting, the board was advised that the town would have to increase the coming fiscal year budget by $3.7 million to properly fund the pension and insurance accounts for town, police, and fire personnel, Flynn said.

Flynn was alerted to the promotions via an anonymous letter delivered just before Christmas.

The writer only identified him or herself as someone covered by the fire and police pension fund, Flynn said. The note was "very disturbing, because it was quite specific and very accusatory," he added.

After requesting information from the Department of Human Resources that revealed "a fact pattern that lent credibility to what the letter said," Flynn said he decided to pass on the letter to Tetreau and the Board of Finance to review.

A report on the matter from independent counsel should be available within 30 days after an attorney is chosen, Tetreau said. The latter decision is expected to be made in a few days.

Chief Felner told the board he knows what the outcome of the report will be.

"We have to hire independent counsel to tell us what we need to do -- we know what we need to do: change the contract," he said.

According to the firefighters contract -- which expires on June 30,2013 and will be undergoing negotiations in the coming months -- high-ranking vacancies like chief or lieutenant are filled by the senior man in the rank below.

That employee may then choose to retire at the promoted rank and increased salary, regardless of how long he held the position and if the promotion was provisional or permanent.

Felner said he has done nothing more than follow the contract when he moves up firefighters to fill vacancies to meet the pact's minimum manpower clause.

"It's my responsibility to make sure our residents are safe and taken care of and our firefighters go home safe every night," he said. "There's nothing in this for me. If you don't think I am doing my job and I'm wasting the town's time, I will step down."

Finance Board Vice Chair Rob Bellitto pointed out that when the contract was last up for negotiation in 2010, a proposal was made to change that clause so a firefighter would have to hold a higher position for one year before he could retire at that rank and salary. The union rejected the proposal, Bellitto said, and it was not included in the three items that were agreed upon for arbitration.

Whether the current practice can be discontinued between now and the ratification of a new contract will be reviewed by counsel, according to Tetreau.

The discussion will be continued at Thursday's Fire Commission meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the first floor conference room of Sullivan Independence Hall.

memories January 11, 2013 at 11:11 AM
Wow Sean, thats amazing. Ever witness a volunteer company work a house fire? I have because I live in a town with a volly fire department. Every house burns to the ground Sean, every one. Ya know why Sean because those fellows have jobs they have to go to. If they get hurt they can't work. Hence no aggressive atack on any fire because they can't afford to get hurt. Do some homework Sean, check the average response time for a volly company. Vollys don't want "HERO STATUS" as you put it. Your are kidding right? Just read this news forum or the Fairfield Citizen. The southport volunteers spent 35 minutes pumping a church basement during super storm sandy and got some award, pictures in the paper the whole nine yards. The paid Fairfield firefighters worked 84 hours straight though super sandy, no award and they don't want any awards. If vollys work for you Sean do your job for free for a week a month. Then bring some folks with you to work, teach them how to do your job. Once they know how to do your job you can stay home and let them do it for free. Why should we pay you? Give me one good reason we should pay you to do your job.
dave crosby January 11, 2013 at 12:58 PM
hey memories, you are obviously a retired fireman,or active. you seem to be alright with this scam felner is pulling, eh? our soldiers also work long hours,and for a hell of a lot less pay,and for god knows how many less "sick"days.
dave crosby January 11, 2013 at 01:40 PM
by the way,memories,where do you come up with this "work 84 hours straight" b.s.? the dept. worked that,not any single fireman,as you seem to be putting over. their own precious union wouldn't allow it,as you well know. you are a fire dept. mouth piece.
Nonsense January 11, 2013 at 01:41 PM
Excuse police and fire from what exactly!??!?
John Jameson January 11, 2013 at 02:35 PM
So, I'm guessing that since you are all so concerned that you're commenting on a website that you all attended the Fire Commission meeting to voice those same concerns to people who have the power to do something about it, right?
James H January 11, 2013 at 03:02 PM
Of course not...it's much easier to sit in the shadows and complain about the current state of affairs. If anyone actually stepped up to point out issues before they arise they might face open criticism. Don't get me wrong, I'm outraged that the chief seems to consistently behave in a manner that is less than honorable. To see someone like "memories" try to tarnish any member of the community that volunteers their time is in bad taste but to belittle somebody who could potentially risk their life voluntarily to help me out if I need help is just disgraceful and petty. I hope he is not or was not part of Fairfield's career department as behavior like that tarnishes the many union members that know how to live in a civilized society. There was a retired fireman living near me a couple years ago, he predicted that there would be an issue soon because so many men were hired at once back in the 80's and that they would all reach retirement age at the same time. Unfortunately I think that time has come.
Frank Lombardo January 11, 2013 at 04:36 PM
80 percent is living high on the hog. Mine is a fraction of that from corporate. The only people in private sector that make that kind of pension are execs with golden parachutes.
James H January 11, 2013 at 04:53 PM
Wayne G...thanks for weighing in here, based on your knowledge I'm assuming that you are either a current or retired Ffld firefighter. Do you know if this practice has happened in the past or is it new?
Sean O'Donnell January 11, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Well said, Frank, Let "TRUTH" and "FACTS" with No Spin, be the points in addressing our growing Taxation & Fees. The Citizens are Entitled to that much.
memories January 11, 2013 at 06:55 PM
Dave, not fireman active or retired. The Army is all volunteer. With hugh college benefits and the GI bill. I know, I use them. Love you folks that just think something is obvious just from a statement.
memories January 11, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Wrong again Dave, the contract those guys work under goes out the window during a state of emergency. It was actualy more than 84 straight. Those guys didn't go home for 84 hours. Do some reshearch before you open your mouth.
memories January 11, 2013 at 06:59 PM
I'm not complaining. Those folks deserve everything they get and more.
John Jameson January 11, 2013 at 07:00 PM
But do you also get social security and medicare? Police and firefighters do not.
John Jameson January 11, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Sean, did you go to the Fire Commission meeting? Have you been to a Board of Selectmen meeting, a finance board meeting, an RTM meeting? How about the school board, have you been to one of their meetings?
memories January 11, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Sean are you going to work tomorrow and work for free??? Going to do some volunteering??
dave crosby January 11, 2013 at 07:42 PM
hey memories, the last time I looked nobody was forcing someone to join the fire dept.you join it of your own free will,just like the army.and just because they didn't go home,it doesn't mean they were" working". they were sleeping,or resting,ect. stop it with the b.s.
memories January 11, 2013 at 08:15 PM
Dave,they where working. Check the incident report sheets for the time duration. It's public information. You just have to get up from your computer. Oh also Dave, I get full medical benefits from the VA. untill I die, and Dave you pay for it. Thanks.
memories January 11, 2013 at 08:18 PM
James H, did you work for free today? Are you going to show some volunteer how to do your job?
Valley Guy January 11, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Just FYI, Sikorsky Firefighters make more then Fairfield Firefighters and they are certainly not responding to 9000 calls a year
dave crosby January 11, 2013 at 09:01 PM
memories,just what is it you remember,maybe the gunster house in Bridgeport?
dave crosby January 11, 2013 at 09:04 PM
hey memories,how is it possible to work when you are sleeping,unless you are trying to tell us they didn't sleep for four days straight? hey,sorry rehab didn't work out.
memories January 11, 2013 at 09:35 PM
Dave, as i said before check the incident sheets. It public information. All you have is insults and not getting out from in front of your computer. And like i said thanks for paying for my medical benefit for life. Got any other works of wisdom??
dave crosby January 11, 2013 at 09:56 PM
hey memories, put down the beer. theres no question in my mind you are either a retired or current fireman. so people stayed up over 4 days straight with no sleep,eh? so who but a fireman would have knowledge of incident sheets?your cover is blown,ace.
dave crosby January 11, 2013 at 10:34 PM
valley guy,neither is the fairfield fire dept.
memories January 11, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Read-em and weep Dave. Your are an odd duck Dave, first you extol our military now you are berating them. But i will still thank you for paying for my college benefits, GI Bill and VA insurance benefits for life.
Roger Fuller January 11, 2013 at 11:31 PM
The Fairfield Fire department responded to over 9600 calls in 2012. That is public information.
Nonsense January 12, 2013 at 12:25 AM
Anyone know what the running tally is of how much the Town has paid this "outside counsel" to do the Human Resource Directors and 1st Selectman's job of negotiating contracts!?!? I know its over $200k, but I havent been to town hall lately. Strange, other administrations were able to do this themselves - why do we have a town attorney on retainer if he isnt doing this??
Nonsense January 12, 2013 at 12:27 AM
Look at the current fire contract. The Town blew a TON OF MONEY to this law firm, but did the contract change much?? NO! and guess what? it was just settled and is almost up for renegotiation again!! That firm is raking in the cash!!
Nonsense January 12, 2013 at 12:29 AM
Tell me you couldnt lock all the concerned parties in a room until they came up with an agreement...would have cost a lot less than $200k...maybe 200 bucks for pizza and beer..such nonsense...and how about the slapping report??!?! Thousands of dollars and what did they come up with? "Oh he 'probably' slapped Gomola"...wow what investigative work!
Nonsense January 12, 2013 at 12:35 AM
Hey, is it true that the fire department used to require notes for sick days from everyone until his son got hired and apparently started calling out sick all the time?!?! Now they dont have to!?!

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