State Retirement change -- FYI
- Sunday, April 1, 2012
Little-known court ruling could lead to big-time messKevin Landrigan
An obscure Supreme Court ruling about a retired probate judge from Goffstown could become the powder keg that hamstrings future legislative action and could nullify past moves to place restrictions on retirements of public employees.
Hyperbole, you say?
Well, take a close look at the language in the appeal of former Probate Judge Raymond Cloutier and you’ll find the Supreme Court rule that a “vested” judge is one who attains that status once he or she has been appointed to the office.
That’s counter to the understanding in state and case law affecting public employees, as it has always been held to be after 10 years of public service.
The Professional Association of Firefighters had already convinced a lower-court judge to throw out higher payroll deductions for 10-year incumbent public employees.
In light of this ruling, President David Lang told The Sunday Telegraph that he and fellow unions joined in the suit are huddling with their lawyers to consider asking that lower court judge to reconsider in light of this decision.
“This ruling is huge,” Lang said. “If they are challenged, this could put in jeopardy all kinds of employee givebacks that were foisted on us, even those that came when Democrats were in charge.”
The high court’s decision on Cloutier has gone down to a lower court to consider whether the harm done to the ex-judge with his pension amount is substantial enough to reach a legal test.
But Lang believes the damage has been done, and the Supreme Court has laid down a marker that could put at risk many changes to the Retirement System – making public safety workers be older and work longer to get a pension, for example.
Now, here’s the fascinating politics of it.
Cloutier’s lawyer is none other than Republican frontrunning gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne, of Manchester.
Surely this wasn’t Lamontagne’s intent, but what if this decision ends up putting in jeopardy tens of millions in benefit cutbacks to public employees that legislators have carried out in past years?
Is that the kind of fiscally conservative credentials anyone running for the highest office in the land would want on their resume?
We think not.