July 28, 2010

Turnaround Dictator Comes with Big Bucks

Justin Katz

If there are going to be public-sector pensions, then judges should receive reasonable ones, and somebody being paid to turn around a failing municipality should be compensated well for undertaking the responsibility, but state Senator William Walaska (D, Warwick) has a point about the amounts involved in Central Falls:

I was outraged when I read that retired Superior Court Judge Mark S. Pfeiffer would accept payment of $200 an hour, up to a cap of $164,000, as the receiver for Central Falls, on top of his $123,490-a-year state pension (Journal: "Retired judge steps in to run finances," July 17). His wife is District Court Judge Pamela Woodcock Pfeiffer, who is paid $148,900 a year. This doesn't even count the money that Judge Pfeiffer is making as an arbitrator.

Unseated mayor Charles Moreau, you might recall, was receiving the healthy sum of $71,736 in salary (plus plenty of perks, no doubt). Why the receiver — who already has much for which to be grateful to the State of Rhode Island — requires twice the mayor's old pay must be (let's just say) above my pay grade to understand.

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What does a person’s retirement income and their spouse’s income have to do with hourly rate they are being compensated at for being a consultant or court appointed receiver? He negotiated an hourly wage for his services and time at an acceptable rate with a total salary cap in place.

If he is at age he is probably collecting Social Security also which you did not mention.

I don’t see the logic and if that were the case then everyone’s wage compensation should be tied to what their spouse receives for wages and retirement income package.

Talk about big brother and government controls!

Posted by: Ken at July 28, 2010 6:19 PM

Your question is precisely the problem, Ken. Nobody in our society even remembers what the original purpose of a pension was. There should not be such a thing as a $123,490 public pension - ever.

Posted by: Dan at July 28, 2010 9:40 PM

Ken's question is just a distraction from the fact that public employees "negotiate" their deals with politicians whom they can help to elect. Complaints about the potential for a half-million Rhode Island taxpayer dollars to go to the past-their-prime Pfeiffer family are precisely the feedback that give some reality to the notion that "public servants" are negotiating a mutually agreeable deal with the people who ultimately pay the bill.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 28, 2010 10:02 PM


To some extent I agree and the fact that judges in RI were getting close to 100% of actual pay while everyone else got maximum 80% as a retirement benefit highlights is the problem.

Now pension reform in RI has cut the judges back to maximum 80% while new rules also cut the state workers back to 70% of average top 5 years’ salary.

A lot of the highlighted retirement salaries in the newspaper and in comment blog streams are the extreme end of the retirement spectrum and not the average (I now receive $800/mo. after taxes for 15 years of RI service).

As long as you have state salaries that are over $100,000 a year which was unheard of when I was up on Smith Hill you will have the high retirement incomes.

I live very comfortably on my retirement income in Honolulu, HI mainly because I am a senior and afforded discounts and tax exemptions I would never receive in RI. Plus State of HI has had healthcare reform for over 35 years so that the state has the lowest helthcare costs in nation.

However, tying a person’s salary to their retirement or spouse’s salary is just plain wrong. You are paying them for the job they are doing and their other financial gains should not enter the picture.

Posted by: Ken at July 28, 2010 10:17 PM


Under you current discussion if I were you boss I should ask you what other income enters your household via your spouse, children or any other income you receive and the pay you per hour what I think you should live off of.

Not paying you for your expertise as a carpenter or your managerial qualities or abilities but based on what I think you need to live on based on your total family income.

Think about it!

Posted by: Ken at July 28, 2010 10:31 PM

Good post, Justin.

Your facts remind me of how they run Providence (the city). For one example, the Mayor's brother causes the city to release a tax lien on a real estate property and the city somehow loses some $135K. The mayor then (with taxpayer money) hires an accounting firm, for some $300K - $400K, to write a report that purports (falsely) to claim that the Mayor knew nothing of his brother's actions. The city, now essentially insolvent, goes on to become the springboard for the Mayor's possibly successful run for Congress.

Taxpayers in RI seem to assume that blatant thefts and other wastes of taxpayer money is not the tax money that they paid -- someone else must have paid it.

Posted by: Bill at July 29, 2010 12:01 AM

Wouldn't it make sense to have a law that says a person may not be taking a state pension while working in any capacity for the state or a municipality. If they have already started taking their pension, they may suspend that to go back to work, but they can't collect both.

And do $100,000+ public pensions make sense? Why not cap that at something a bit more reasonable? The person qualifies for that type of pension because they made a lot of money during their working years. Maybe they have a lifestyle they want to keep up, but why not cap it at like $75,000 or something that makes sense?

Just throwing ideas out there.

Posted by: Patrick at July 29, 2010 12:28 PM


What you just said is if a person is a State of RI worker they can’t draw a retirement income from the state if they get another job working for the State of RI or a RI municipality which I believe is already a law for teachers and state workers. I don’t know how that affects judges. Former State of RI and teachers and workers are limited to certain hours worked per year while drawing a pension.

Then you said let’s put a cap on State of RI retirement. Granted that makes sense but what happens if I have a $150,000 life style or cost of living goes up; you are limiting me to $75,000 retirement income and there is a State of RI $90,000 consulting job or a private business consulting job that I am the most highly qualified for the job but RI law says I can only collect RI retirement or consulting fees?

I think that would become a great test case in a court of law.

When you retire granted if you have done your homework, prepared and done proper financial planning your cost of living requirements should drop about 25% or more meaning you can maintain your life style but at a lower cost.

I know being retired and moving from RI to HI I have cut my living expenses considerably.

Posted by: Ken at July 29, 2010 11:09 PM

Herein lies the big scam being perpetrated on the public. When we,the taxpayers, grant such generous pensions, it was due to the concept that these public employees couldn't work any more. Obviously, they can. So why do we grant such generous pensions?? We need to change this.
How many times have you seen a cop retire, then go to another city, and start another pension, stealing someone else's job at the same time??
This is a scam that needs to end.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at July 31, 2010 9:28 AM
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