By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – After several weeks of effort and a lengthy, often heated discussion, the Taylor City Council approved Tuesday a slight change in the pension system for city employees.
A second reading of a proposed ordinance amendment was approved during the regular council meeting, designed to limit the ability of an elected official to enhance a pension package if appointed or elected to another position.
The question has been an issue following the resignation of Treasurer Wayne Avery in June. No appointment was made Tuesday to fill Avery’s four-year term that began in 2009.
Among the candidates to replace Avery is Jaclyn Mollner, a veteran of 14 years’ service to the city as a part-time councilwoman.
If appointed to the treasurer’s position, some wondered if Mollner would be eligible to collect a pension based on the full-time treasurer’s salary, an enhancement of any entitlements she earned on council.
The amendment may prevent that. Council Chairwoman Cheryl Burke promoted an additional line to broaden the amendment, which passed by a 5-2 vote (Burke and Councilwoman Jill Brandana cast dissenting votes), to include anyone accepting an appointed or elected position. As it stands, the amendment restricts pension enhancements for people moving into an elected job such as treasurer, and seems to currently affect one person, although other scenarios remain possible for current or former council members.
As an applicant for the treasurer’s position, Mollner stressed that it is not her intention to boost her benefits.
“What I’m trying to do is go to the treasurer’s job without a pension increase,” Mollner said Tuesday.
The discussion, however, became heated, with council members and residents in attendance frequently ignoring meeting protocol, speaking on top of one another and making accusations of improper motivations. During and after the meeting – of which the pension debate dominated the time – city officials and residents were visibly irritated.
“I won’t take part in this charade,” Councilman John Delo said, declining to answer questions related to payments he received as a human resources consultant for the city.
“The change is irrelevant, in my view,” Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand said of the amendment that, as several people pointed out, can be easily nullified by a future council vote or court decision. “All they did was put on a show for the people. Why do council people even get pensions? This is something they voted for themselves (years ago), and of no benefit to the taxpayer.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])