[toc]It was supposed to be early retirement for approximately 120 Atlantic City police officers. Now it seems as though the city might end up laying off the cops in an attempt to keep costs down.
The police officers’ union and state officials have been going back and forth to reach a resolution. Earlier this month though, the hope that early retirement buyouts could be the solution were squashed.
State reps confirm early retirement plan is ‘dead’
Jeffrey Chiesa is the chief representative of the state handling the negotiations with the police officers. Gov. Chris Christie appointed the former US senator as the state overseer for Atlantic City.
The appointment was part of a legal takeover of the city government by state officials. For the next five years, Chiesa, a practicing attorney, has quite a bit of power in the city. With great power comes great responsibility, though. He is tasked with bringing the city back to fiscal prosperity by cutting the budget.
Roland Israel, an attorney who represented Chiesa in the latest round of police buyout discussions confirmed Chiesa’s team was willing to play tough to achieve that goal. After another rough meeting, Israel told the Press of Atlantic City:
“The [Early Retirement Incentives (ERI)] is off the table because the governor and the Legislature are not going to agree to an ERI. It’s done. It’s dead.”
Israel said the state proposed a couple of different ERI plans, but the police refused to accept them.
Meanwhile, AC police is telling a different story. Atlantic City Superior Officers Association President Frank Brennan says the police had additional questions about the proposition, but the state refused to meet with them again.
Atlantic City would need state help to pay for police buyouts
Several key state lawmakers, including Senate President Steve Sweeney, support offering the police officers buyouts. The statement from Sweeney and company does not specify who would pay for such a measure.
The local government cannot afford paying out 120 early retirement plans. In order to implement the ERI, the state arguably needs to subsidize the venture.
The politicians supporting the ERI are the same officials who pushed through the legislation to put the state in charge of the struggling Atlantic City. The measure gives the state the ability to help financially struggling cities get back on track by making hiring, firing and budget decisions. It does not allow for budgetary support from the state, however.
Police retirement latest employment issue involving Chiesa to draw headlines
Chiesa is taking his role hiring and firing city employees seriously. The police retirement plan is not the only initiative from Chiesa attempting to cut the Atlantic City budget.
When Chiesa revealed his plan to lay off over 100 local firefighters, even the takeover legislation’s authors expressed concerned about his sweeping cuts. It did not help matters that Chiesa’s law firm bills numerous expensive hours to the city.
Chiesa addressed the issue in an interview with Philly.com last month. “We’re going to do everything we can to protect the city’s financial interests in a professional way. I understand, and it’s legitimate for people to want to look at our fees.”
He did add that the fees, which run up to $90 per hour for something as simple as paralegal services, are significantly discounted from the firm’s standard market rates. Additionally, Chiesa said he did not come in intending to bust up unions, but he does feel certain labor forces are trying to take advantage of the situation.
When it comes to Chiesa’s overall goals for the city, he claimed he did not have a concrete budget figure in mind,
“I don’t have a target figure in mind. We talk to our accountants every week about it. I’m not going to commit to a number. I’m trying to move it to the best spot as I can. I don’t want to place any limitations about it.”