Moore: Muksian’s Outrageous Severance Package
Monday, April 10, 2017
The rest of us can go pound sand, as far as the elites are concerned.
That’s was my reaction after reading GoLocal’s reporting, last weekend, on the massive severance package the city administration paid former Chief Operating Officer Robin Muksian.
On March 28, Mayor Jorge Elorza’s office announced that Muksian would resigned from the city. This announcement followed a GoLocal report that Muksian had pushed for an unqualified candidate to become the administrator to the Providence Board of Licenses, whose family just so happened to have a personal relationship as well as a prior business relationship with Muksian.
Yet despite leaving the job supposedly through her own volition and under less than honorable circumstances, Elorza still saw fit to hand Muksian a $34,000 golden parachute--paid for by all of us--(even if you’re not from Providence, realize that about half of the city’s budget comes from state aid). Keep in mind: this woman only worked for the city since last August! Imagine how much of our money the mayor would have handed her if she worked for the city for two whole years? I do not even want to imagine.
According to data listed on the state’s Department of Labor and Training Website, the median income in the City of Providence is $22,270.
To add insult to injury, the administration approved the massive severance package without city council approval, which the City Treasurer, in a scathing letter to the city council, argued violates the city charter.
“It was a payment for $34,215 with an amount deemed "severance" for $19,692 (attached). I immediately emailed the Controller's office to reverse the $19,692 severance portion of the payment and they stated that the Law Department opined it was proper,” wrote City Treasurer Jim Lombardi. “They refused to separate the payment. Unfortunately, this is a complete breakdown of the checks and balances authorized by the City Charter. “
Insult to Injury
Even if the severance was somehow legal without council approval, and that’s very much an open question, how does the mayor explain to Providence taxpayers that he decided to spend their money on a very generous severance package for an employee who wasn’t laid off, or even fired, but quit the job. Are there any other places in Rhode Island where this is even imaginable?
On top of all this, it’s not like Providence is on safe financial footing. On the contrary, the city is drowning in red ink, with total liabilities (made up mostly of pension and health care obligations for current and future retirees) nearing $2 billion.
My hope is that one day, (for I doubt I will see it in my lifetime), perhaps 100 years from now, children will read the history books about our state and instances like this or former Representative Donald Lally’s hiring by the Raimondo administration (against the spirit of revolving door statutes) and teachers will be able to tell the students that civic-minded reformers emerged and put a stop to all of the corruption that plagued Rhode Island in the beginning portion of the 21st century. I hope so.
But I’m not optimistic.
Related Slideshow: City and Town Retiree Benefits Liabilities
The below slides list the liabilities for retiree health care and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) in cities, towns, and school districts that have local plans. For each jurisdiction, the total liability and the amount that is unfunded are displayed. The slides also show how much is funded as a percent and indicate the date that the numbers were estimated. In many instances, the most recently available figures are from several years ago. Note that in some communities the OPEB liabilities are broken out into separate plans, one for the city and town and one for the school district. Data source: the report of the Locally-Administered Pension and OPEB Study Commission, dated Jan. 9, 2015.
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