The City of Troy, New York, "Where Henry Hudson Turned Around."

Monday, September 11, 2006


When some people leave a job, they get a lunch, perhaps a party. Sometimes the retiree even gets a gold watch (or at least a gold plated watch). And some? Some get free healthcare for life.

By now, everyone is aware that approximately 99 former Troy city employees and/or family members will be losing health benefits on November 1. Here's some background to date. Franco also devoted most of his Thursday column to the issue.

According to the city, the recipients are not actually eligible for the benefits even though some have been receiving benefits for decades.

No one, with a few possible exceptions, likes the idea of cutting people's benefits, especially those for the elderly. The obvious issue however is whether or not people ineligible for benefits have been receiving them. If so, those benefits should stop. Theoretically, a municipality doesn't exist to hand out gifts, be it cell phone ear pieces or healthcare.

The beneficiaries have also been given time to make alternative arrangements. Presumably, many will be eligible for medicade or medicare. This coverage might not be the same as before, but it is not as if they will have no healthcare at all.

The city has also taken pains to give 'everyone' time to secure alternative coverage. Unless you're a Democrat. Despite claims to the contrary, at least one Democrat was told that his coverage will end immediately. As usual, this crowd has to 'play politics' with everything.

Unfortunately, this issue will not be tied up with nice ribbon and bows and easily resolved. Not all of the 99 are in the same boat.

For instance, there are 19 former firefighters included in the 99. They are receiving benefits by way of a Memorandum of Agreement signed by Dworsky (who else?), Richard Caola and Ward Reardon. According to that agreement, effective January 1, 1991 Troy would:

1. Pay one-third of the health care costs of retired firemen in 1991 (if they are not covered by other agreements);

2. Pay two-thirds of the costs in the following year;

3. Pay the full cost in the third and in all subsequent years.

Memorandum of Agreements are enforced throughout the state. This is not the first time this issue has come up and it won't be the last. It will be interesting to see if the firefighters put up a fight. It could be another costly lawsuit.

The questions that immediately spring to mind are:

1) Did Dworsky, as City Manager, have authority to enter into such an agreement?

2) If so, why isn't the city honoring the agreement?

3) How did a recent retiree, with only 6 years on the job, get full benefits? Was he a Republican or Conservative?

4) Did any beneficiaries rely upon the city's coverage to their detriment? Did they give up something for this coverage that they otherwise have been entitled to?

5) Why was at least one former city official given no notice?

6) Did this come to light because people overestimated sales tax revenue and some fancy footwork is needed to balance the impending budget?

The city says these folks are not entitled to benefits. That may very well be the case. However, the people in charge of this city are not the most honorable or decent individuals. It's not a stretch to see this team go after the elderly to make ends meet for the upcoming budget. If we've all learned one thing the past few years it's that you cannot take what this administration says or does at face value. They have a habit of lying. Distrust and verify.

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