The Advantaged Class at the Town Level, Too

Providence Journal reporter Mark Reynolds dipped into the pension situation in Johnston, on Sunday, focusing on this case:

Fire Lt. William R. Jasparro was 41 when he ended his 20-year career as a Johnston firefighter in 1990.
Jasparro’s retirement package paid him about $18,255 per year [with cost of living adjustments] — based on half of his final years’ earnings. He went to work in construction and later took a job at the state’s Central Landfill, which ultimately paid him $80,000 a year.

Most folks would be satisfied with a “retirement” benefit payable for 30-plus years (plus health care coverage for life), assuming he lives to the median age for men and doesn’t hand it off to a spouse. Eight years into his retirement (or perhaps “second career” would be more accurate), Jasparro sued to be bumped up to a disability pension, which would have yielded 100% of salary, tax free. At least by the article’s description, it doesn’t sound as if he had much of a case, but the town settled, giving him 67% of salary, tax free.
It occurs to me that Rhode Island would profit from a town-by-town investigation, with the results aggregated somewhere to give the public a fair sense of just how pervasive such deals are. How many people are collecting retirement benefits while working in another branch of the state’s public sector? It’d be interesting to know. For example, another Johnston retiree, 51-year-old former police detective and union president John Nardolillo, is now a police officer in West Greenwich. Whatever his salary is, there, he’s taking home $33,982 based on his previous career.
Growing up, I planned to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and adjust my income expectations accordingly. Rhode Island’s public sector clearly has more than its share of people whose focus is mainly on working the system. And there’s a lot of system to work. As much attention as I pay to such matters, I don’t believe I’ve ever come across this factor, before:

Also, under Rhode Island law, the state pays the tuition for the disabled firefighter or police officer and his or her children to attend any Rhode Island state college.

It’d be interesting to see a total cost of that benefit and have the list of beneficiaries combed for young retirees who go on to second careers or intensive weight-lifting hobbies.

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Dan
Dan
11 years ago

The state of Rhode Island and its cities would be completely doomed if its leech-like population realized that it doesn’t have the patience or resources to defend itself against frivolous discrimination/benefits claims and will settle virtually any lawsuit just to make the plaintiff go away. You typically get one “freebie” lawsuit against the state, then when you come back a second time for more they actually challenge you.
Oops, did I say that out loud?

michael
11 years ago

“Rhode Island’s public sector is clearly full of people whose focus is mainly on working the system.”
Actually Rhode Island’s public sector is clearly full of people who are going to work every day and doing a good job, with a percentage of whom are intent on working the system, just like the private sector. But that’s just me, an “ageist” from the “advantaged class.”

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Not an “ageist”, Michael, just an apologist. Whether you call it corruption or “working the system”, it is the official state hobby of Rhode Island.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
11 years ago

Michael,
I used the “full of” phrase carelessly during my morning rush and have rephrased.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Michael’s “ageist” comment presumably refers to a spat we had last week regarding whether I should be ignored or patronized for being younger than he is and not having the requisite “life experience” in his opinion. How exactly my age and familial status affect the substantive public policy options facing the state remains unclear.
I have worked a number of years in the private sector, RI state government, and in government offices outside of RI. There is no comparison to the prevalance of nepotism, patronage, fraud, corruption, and gross waste that occurs in Rhode Island’s public sector. Michael’s repeated attempts to wallpaper over the problem with “Well, it happens in the private sector too,” is disingenuous to the full extent of the problem, misses the entire point regarding the nature of government, and enables all manner of fraud and legal but highly unethical abuse (as evidenced in this article) to continue unabated. Treating case after case as just a series of individual “bad apples” misses the proverbial forest for the trees, and the parasite infestation that is causing the entire orchard to rot continues to thrive under his watch and collapse the financial footing of the entire state.
What Michael fails to comprehend is that when all of the individual members of an organization are unwilling to accept proportional responsibility for the organization as a whole, then really nobody is responsible for the organization at all and things inevitably end badly.

Max Diesel
Max Diesel
11 years ago

Is the Nardolillo case working the system or just playing by the rules and the rules need changing? I find it hard to characterize someone as working the system when they are taking advantage of a benefit without bending the rules. In the case the firefighter, that’s just plain wrong on too many levels.

ANTHONY
ANTHONY
11 years ago

Whatever language you want to use it is unethical. Do we need a written law to be ethical? RI is corrupt systemically. Does everyone participate in corruption? Absolutely not.However too many “game” the system, It’s easy to be corrupt and to sink to the lowest common denominator when your peers are “getting theirs”. The state is small, news travels fast and unethical behavior is too much the norm. The ethical pay for the unethical.

Max Diesel
Max Diesel
11 years ago

I’m one of the biggest critics of the pension system but if the Town of Johnston says you can retire after 20 years, collect your pension, and work some where else then why is that unethical? Actually, you’d have to be plain stupid not too. At a 50% pension, your AGI drops like a rock and you’re no longer paying pension contributions and union dues. So you get another job to make up the difference or in some cases, you live like a king. That’s not unethical, that’s genius. If someone scams the system (like too many have) that’s a different story.

ANTHONY
ANTHONY
11 years ago

Yes Max it’s genius to sustain the unsustainable. The “Genius” among us are bankrupting the cities and towns. Very clever indeed…and legal.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

I could easily get rich opening a Title VII civil rights “boutique” firm with my two buddies and suing various state and private sector entities in lawsuits crafted just carefully enough to squeak past summary judgment and therefore be worth settling to make us go away. I know how to work that system and I’ve seen it done. Would I be a “genius” or a “scumbag” for doing that? I think the latter. It’s called integrity, something many RI fire figthers left home a long time ago.

michael
11 years ago

From the sound of your little story, Dan, a lot of attorneys have left their integrity at the door. I’ll be expecting your inquisition to begin immediately.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Michael, I have major problems with the legal profession as a whole and the legal framework in which it operates, particularly when it comes to the often despicable inner workings of the prosecutor and big law subcultures. I have detailed my objections and suggestions for reform on this blog numerous times, and I will be happy to do so again. In fact, my post in this very thread exposes an incentive problem for Title VII plaintiff attorneys and I characterize such abusers of the system as “scumbags.”
When have you ever taken such responsibility for your union and the outrageous abuses of RI firefighters? That would be never. Every post from you here simply admonishes critics for “not having the facts” or shirks responsibility for the systemic abuses, “Hey, don’t look at me, I just work here.” Obfuscation, denial, and evasion. I will never be an apologist or an enabler of the problems and you could take a major lesson there.
Attorneys are regularly sanctioned or disbarred for fraud and misconduct. Firefighters, from what I can tell, get essentially no scrutiny from anybody until they are caught on candid camera by the local news scamming the taxpayers for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, in the legal profession, a lot of what I consider scummy behavior is entirely legal based on poorly-thought-out laws and regulations, so, unlike in your situation, reporting them won’t have any effect and the most I can do is refuse to be a lackey, scorn the abusers, and advocate for change. If you were even willing to go that far regarding your own union and profession with their unique set of problems, then I would be extremely impressed. I think hell will freeze over first.

michael
11 years ago

Perhaps you should actually read the five years worth of my contributions here, and you will see exactly how full of it you are.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Yes, I must have coincidentally missed every post in which you accepted responsibility over the past five years, Michael. Perhaps you could boil down the gist of it to a few representative sentences here, just so everybody is on notice from now on as to what you have done to correct the systemic problems that plague your union and department.
See, rather than sleeping, cooking, and watching television on the job like some professions, I read through hundreds of pages of documents every day and it kind of loses its thrill after a while.

michael
11 years ago

I’d rather not repeat myself, it gets boring. You are really showing a remarkable tendency to insult other people while putting yourself on a pedestal. If nothing else your self aggrandizing is good for a chuckle.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Of course not, Michael. Why “waste your time” correcting other people’s misperceptions? Better to grumble and complain about the “ignorance” of others for hours and hours rather than investing 60 seconds up front and simply setting the record straight.
My guess is that you have nothing of substance to offer in the first place and that this “too dignified to answer” act is just a petulant smokescreen to deflect criticism from your union and department, but if I’m wrong then I’m sure you won’t be the one to correct me – too much effort, right? You can’t be bothered responding to the likes of us. Except when you do again, and again, and again…

michael
11 years ago

“My guess is that you have nothing of substance to offer in the first place.”
You are a little late to the party, Dan, I’ve been offering things of substance for years. You are the one making accusations about things you think I’ve said and stand for. I have nothing to hide.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Michael – All I’ve ever seen you do here is defend your public union and hurl insults at its critics while making the same old lame “a few bad apples” argument each time yet another firefighter abuse scandal comes to light. All we want is for you to take some responsibility for the organizations you willingly associate yourself with and be up front with us about their shortcomings. Not the shortcomings of “any organization” as you try to paint it, mind you, but the serious and highly-publicized shortcomings specific to your union and fire department.
If you can rebut this characterization with prior posts that you have made here, please feel free to provide us with links to them. No, I am not going to go digging through thousands of posts over the last 5 years to find corroborating evidence of your own counterclaims to my argument when I do not believe that such posts exist in the first place. That is not reasonable on your part.

Tom Kenney
11 years ago

Dan,
You remain unchanged.
[[ I will never be an apologist or an enabler of the problems and you could take a major lesson there. ]]
Are you at all serious that Michael can take a lesson regarding honesty and integrity from you? lol Now I’ve heard it all.
[[ …so, unlike in your situation, reporting them won’t have any effect and the most I can do is refuse to be a lackey, scorn the abusers, and advocate for change. ]]
Sure. That’s your typical response. Michael & I should take responsibility and turn in abusers in our profession with little more than suspicion, but it wouldn’t have any effect if you policed your profession so you’re conveniently off the moral hook. Talk about not taking responsibility.
I may be wrong but I thought that the ethics committee of the legal system was interested in “any suapected” wrongdoing of members of the bar.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

This is getting kind of stupid, Tom, but as I’ve already explained to you quite clearly, there isn’t a widespread and well-publicized problem with illegal activity in any of the organizations in which I have worked, nor has there ever been, nor is that the result of mere chance. You can’t say the same, therefore you must be extra vigilant and proactive to restore the public trust that has been lost over the decades in which you have worked in the Providence Fire Department and your public union.
Contrary to your mad dog attacks on me, I have clearly stated multiple times that you do not need to “police” or “surveil” anyone, but merely keep your ears open and stop enabling the fraud by taking to the internet like a caped crusader and spreading unionist firefighter propaganda without acknowledging the severe systemic problems with which your organization has long grappled.
You accuse me of dishonesty, and yet you cannot provide a single supporting example of this claim. You like to rant and rave and threaten about “slander” around here without knowing the actual meaning of the word, so if you want a clear example of defamation, it is right there within your own post.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Posted by Dan at May 4, 2011 7:29 AM
Posted by Dan at May 4, 2011 10:15 AM
Posted by Dan at May 4, 2011 11:26 AM
Posted by Dan at May 4, 2011 12:58 PM
Posted by Dan at May 4, 2011 2:45 PM
Posted by Dan at May 4, 2011 3:40 PM
Dan
Were you at work all day?

michael
11 years ago

Gotta love a guy that can imagine things somebody else said, then insist he defend those imaginary statements, and offer proof, and when that person laughs at him, he says this is getting stupid. Must be a lawyer.
Jokes on you, Dan. And just so you know, I’ll probably check this comment thread a few more tomes but have no intention of further participation, so take your best shot, I’ll read it, probably, but maybe not.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Phil, I am putting in 42 hours of work this week. My specific work schedule is absolutely none of your business.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

I wonder why there are 100’s of angry comments aimed at the firefighter unions on Projo.com today and virtually none in support. All of those people must be evil Republican plants. It couldn’t possibly be that this attitude of zero accountability and holier-than-thou derision coupled with a never-ending string of abuses is angering the literate, taxpaying portion of the public that pays Michael’s salary.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Did you read all those comments while you were supposed to be working on my dime too?

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Phil, I wasn’t working, you insufferable idiot.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

You called me an “insufferable idiot”?
Have you been talking to my wife lately? At least I have not stolen time from my employers over the years by involving myself in activities that did not strictly have to do with work. Particularly now because I’m self employed. I hope this is not the case with you. I don’t think that you are telling the truth about not being at work yesterday. The 10:15 could be a coffee break. The 11:26 could be lunch but can you explain the 12:58? Still lunch? You get an hour and a half? Same thing with the 2:45 and the 3:40. They can’t both be your afternoon break can they? Unless you leave work as early as 3:30. Wow. I think you have some explaining to do to your supervisor and all us taxpayers.

michael
11 years ago

“Phil, I wasn’t working, you insufferable idiot.”
Obviously not, you were too busy playing on Anchor Rising and that brain trust known as Projo.com comments.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
11 years ago

Ummm… even putting aside the possibility that Dan has an atypical schedule or had the day off for some reason or has periods of work time during which he has to be in a particular place to address tasks that might arise (but is otherwise free to do as he likes), it’s entirely conceivable that he’s a salaried employee who works extensive hours and therefore has leeway to pause for irregular periods throughout the day.

michael
11 years ago

Aw, c’mon, Justin, just having a little fun with the lad.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Phil – You are wasting everyone’s time barking up the wrong tree, and demanding to know which days I’m working, not working, working from home, on leave, etc. is not a valid topic of conversation here. There are a number of legitimate privacy reasons why I don’t want my work schedule on the internet. It’s almost as inappropriate as Tom Kenney demanding to know my full name and place of residence over on RIF (he calls me a liar, but I can link to the post). I know that at least two of the progressives here have called people’s workplaces or business partners before, and I do not want my employer bothered even if the complaint is frivolous.
HOWEVER, this one time I will tell you that I finished up a month-long project last week and in doing so built up a number of credit hours, which I used yesterday. I am allowed to do that in my job. For your further information, I am also allowed to take 5 or even 15 (!) minute breaks throughout the day as long as I get my work done, which I do. I am working today, and my morning break ends… now.

Tom Kenney
11 years ago

[[ There are a number of legitimate privacy reasons why I don’t want my work schedule on the internet. It’s almost as inappropriate as Tom Kenney demanding to know my full name and place of residence over on RIF (he calls me a liar, but I can link to the post). ]]
No need to link anything… I’m sure that I probably did call you a liar. That certainly is my opinion of you.
But then again, that’s “my” opinion of “most”, though not all, lawyers.
See, I can cast aspersions on the integrity of one’s profession also!

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
11 years ago

back in Chicago we used to arrest a lot of East Indians-Indians,Pakistanis,and Bangladeshis.
The first ting they’d say was “I want my liar”.Of course they meant lawyer,but they spoke with a dsitinctive accent and that’s how it came out.It was,however ,extremely accurate.
Not particularly thinking of anyone on this blog,however.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Dan
You wrote:
“See, rather than sleeping, cooking, and watching television on the job like some professions, I read through hundreds of pages of documents every day and it kind of loses its thrill after a while.”
That was the 11:26 post (early lunch break?) Sorry, but you were fair game. But Justin is entirely correct. I don’t really want to know or have the right to know how you choose to spend your time. The “insufferable idiot” was just on a little fishing trip. On your next scheduled break I suggest you cue up B.B. King’s classic, “The Thrill is Gone”
The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone away
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away
You know you done me wrong baby
And you’ll be sorry someday

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