Former officers file grievance over pension calculation

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NAUGATUCK — The Police Commission will consider a grievance next month filed on behalf of two recently retired police officers who claim their pensions were improperly calculated.

The grievance was submitted Feb. 3 by Sgt. Bryan Cammarata, president of the borough’s police union, on behalf of former Capt. Jeremiah Scully and Sgt. Laura Harrison, who both retired Feb. 26.

Scully retired under the borough’s early retirement incentive program, which allowed him to leave after 20 years with a yearly pension exceeding $85,000. Harrison was not approved for the early retirement incentive, but retired after 20 years with a pension nearing $62,000.

Their pensions were calculated based on the average of their pay, excluding private duty income, for their highest-earning three years. Harrison was entitled to 70 percent of that number and Scully was entitled to 75 percent.

Annual uniform allowances and education incentive payments, or reimbursement for courses related to law enforcement, were not included in the pension calculations. According to the grievance, the union held a meeting with borough representatives, who said those payments had never been included in pension calculations, and would not be in the future.

The union argued that failing to include those payments in pension calculations violated the police officers’ contract with the borough, which says pension calculations are based on “average gross pay, excluding private duty pay” or “final average earnings,” but does not specify that uniform allowances or education incentive money would be excluded from the calculations.

Police Chief Christopher Edson denied the request to calculate the retirees’ pensions differently last month, arguing that officers were no longer employed by the borough and did not have the right to file grievances. The grievance was also filed after the deadline of 14 days from when Scully and Harrison discovered their pensions had been calculated excluding the uniform and education payments, according to Edson.

The grievance was sent to the Police Commission after Carmella Rinaldi, acting human resource director, denied it for the same reasons.

No union representatives appeared before the commission at its Tuesday meeting, so commissioners tabled any action on the grievance until May 15 to give the union more time.

“I liked these officers when they were there, I really do,” commission member James San Angelo said. “This is not something I really even thought we would ever have to be looking at, with these two. In my opinion, we have to look out for the borough. It’s not in the best interest of the borough to deal with this.”

If the police commission denies the grievance, the union could decide to take it to arbitration.