Friday, May 04, 2018

NorCo to Stop Deducting Medical Contributions From Pension Checks

Meadows Rd Bridge, Llower Saucon Tp
Northampton County's Retirement Board, which manages the pension of roughly 2,200 County retirees, has voted to end a practice that was chipping away at pension checks. To be specific, the Board has directed the County to stop deducting medical contributions from retiree benefits after determining that the practice is illegal.

The practice of deducting medical contributions from pensions first started under Bill Brackbill, and has been continued by every Executive since that time. At the current time, about $400,000 is deducted from the pensions of retirees every year.

Executive Lamont McClure informed Council about the Retirement Board's action, which took place yesterday about two hours before Council met.

Gerald E. "Jerry" Seyfried, the retiree's representative on the Board, complained that some retiree pension checks were being reduced by as much as $300 a month.

The practice was determined to be a violation of the nonimpairment clause of the Home Rule Charter and Pennsylvania State Constitution, the latter of which provides that "[n]o ex post facto law, nor any law impairing the obligation of contracts, or making irrevocable any grant of special privileges or immunities, shall be passed."

In his report to Council, McClure also provided updates on the following matters:

* Sheriff's Appointment. - McClure stated he is advertising the position in this weekend's paper. (I had previously told you that the position had been advertised, and erred. I apologize.) McClure denied that the Acting Sheriff will automatically become the Sheriff unless he acts soon.

* Chrin TIF. - In October 2011, Charles Chrin sought a TIF from Northampton County for a 689-acre business park he was proposing at the northern end of Palmer Township. A TIF is a special arrangement which allows a developer to use the increase in real estate taxes to fund more infrastructure. It requires the approval of the municipality, school board and county. The TIF had already been approved by Palmer Township and the Easton School District. But the County had to sign off as well.

Former Council member Ron Angle negotiated a commitment from Chrin to set aside 1.5 per cent of the net sales price of each lot as sold for farmland preservation, capped at $2 million. According to then Executive Stoffa, this money would be used to get matching grants from the state, and thus enable the County to preserve 650 acres of farmland.

What Chrin is doing in conveying parcels to a straw party for nothing, and then have the straw party sell it off for consideration. Since there is no profit in the original sale, he could argue he owes nothing. But he would offer the County a sum, and former Executive John Brown would accept it. Since Chrin was one of Brown's largest campaign donors, everything as fine.

That was then. Lamont McClure is now Executive, and he just rejected an offer of $25,000 from the sale of three parcels to a straw party because it perverts the arrangement between the County and Chrin.

* Meadows Bridge Needs to be replaced. - Meadows Bridge, located in Lower Saucon Township, is a magnificent stone arch bridge that was built in 1858 so that local farmers could transport their grain to the Levi S. Moyer grist mill. As the land around it was developed and construction trucks crossed, the bridge began showing signs of wear. A recent PennDOT inspection resulted in a decision toclose the bridge.

This is one of 33 bridges that had been slated for repairs as part of the P3 project. It now needs to be replaced. McClure told Council that Kriger Construction, the company working on the bridges, will have to be informed.

* McClure asks for Council review of the P3 project. - One of the unfortunate side effects of the P3 project initiated by Executive John brown is a rogue General Purpose Authority. They canceled a meeting scheduled this past week. Executive Lamont McClure repeated his request that Council begin to review what is going on. "We're going to get this done, he said of the project, but is disturbed by what he is finding.

In addition to an $810,000 bill for two years of legal work and an unprecedented bill from the authority chair, McClure has learned that only eight of the 33 bridges slated for repairs are rated as structurally deficient. One of the bridges slated for replacement is rated at 96%.

* Procurement Code Overhaul. - Technically, it's Article XIII of the Administrative Code. It has led to more acrimony between the Executive and Council than any other issue over the years. It has also led to several lawsuits. When John Brown was Executive, money was set aside for a "study," but nothing was done.

Steve Barron, who at that time was Controller and was concerned about the deficiencies,asked McClure to let him re-write it.

"First, I have to get elected," answered McClure. He was, and he let Barron loose. Barron worked on revisions with Procurement Manager Kathryn Anderson, Deputy Manager Terry Beidelman and Anthony Sabino, the lead auditor in the Controller's Office. After several months, it was presented to Council's Finance Committee, where it underwent lengthy discussion. The revisions were adopted unanimously last night, with minor amendments, after a public hearing.

I will explain the changes in a story on Monday, but McClure credited the authors of these changes.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

So it appears you have praise for McClure. Is the new county council up to speed yet or are they floundering in the dark? You wre4e hard on the last group as well as the county executive. Is McClure and the council on the same page or are they not getting along?

Anonymous said...

So what the Hell is going to happen to that beautiful bridge?

Anonymous said...

So does that mean retirees no longer pay towards their medical coverage?

Anonymous said...

So does that mean retirees no longer pay towards their medical coverage?

Good question. Bernie could you clarify? When changes like this are made, they typically apply only to new hires. Current employees and retirees are supposed to be grandfathered under the existing rules. So it sounds like the argument Jerry is making is that anyone either retired or employed by the county before Brackbill made the change should not have had to pay for post employment medical. Anyone hired after Brackbill should fall under the new rules unless the retirement board completely eliminated it for all. Was there any indication how much this will cost?

Anonymous said...

Slow News Day?.

Anonymous said...

I believe (if I read this correctly) anyone hired before Brackbill should not have to pay
for their medical insurance. The retirement board (according to Bernie) deemed it illegal.
Am I correct? If so, as a current employee, are they going to stop taking this out of our paycheck?

Bernie O'Hare said...

This ruling applies ONLY to retirees. You can'ts change a pension to lessen it onceit is set. It has no application to active employees.

Anonymous said...

So, current employees who retire will have to pay medical contributions while those already retired will not have to???

Bernie O'Hare said...

Whatever the deal is at time of retirement is the deal that will be in place for that employee. It may not be lessened.

Anonymous said...

In the private sector, medical and pension benefits are typically spelled out separately.

Pension benefits are governed by federal law and payouts are based on very specific formulas, but most plans I've seen explicitly state that the company has the right to make changes to the medical benefits, and this indeed has happened as company's costs get squeezed.

Governments don't have this provision for the use of "other people's money?"

Anonymous said...

How much must be paid back to the pension recepients?

Anonymous said...

Bernie can you get more info on the medical payments and if you can clarify this for all retired persons.Thanks for the article.

Anonymous said...

Meadows Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down... Boy are the Saucon Valley historians going to raise a fit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1:05, if you want more info, I urge you ro attend the retiree luncheon on Tuesday. Lamont McClure will be there, and I believe he and Jerry will explain it. I will be there and will listen, and hope to have more detail then.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:54, I am unsure if there is any liability bc when benefits were reduced, the pensioners did not claim so it could be argued there was assent. But there could be liability, though it would be limited.

Anonymous said...

What time and where is the luncheon being held.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The retiree lunch is at noon and at the Northampton Community Center.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1:96, you sound happy at the failure of this bridge. That’s a little weird.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Slow News Day?"

Not to NorCo retirees.

Anonymous said...

Forget the retirees. What is going on with this GPA and bridge deal? It sounds all screwed up? Are the new people messing it up? Will bridges be fixed? We were told a private company would make sure all the bridges were fixed and it was already paid for by the Brown Admisntration. Hopefully this has not been screwed up.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The above comment comes from a Brown sycophant. Brown has NOT paid for this work. But he did pay $810,000 in legal fees for work totally unrelated to the bridge. The work is being done by a private firm hired by Brown, not the new people at the county.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, was the $810,000 payment approved by county council? Also I was told that the county council voted to give the county bridges to the GPA, is that true?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The $810,000 payment was never approved by council. The 7-2 GOP majority on council voted 8-1 to transfer the bridges. The sole dissenter was Ken Kraft.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they pay? even Social Security takes out for part A?

Anonymous said...

Ruled illegal by whom?

Bernie O'Hare said...

It violates the nonimpairment clause and was determined to be illegal by the retirement board. I realize that this decision is unpopular with assholes who like to screw the little guy. Perhaps General Lee Snover and other NorCo Republicans can make this their central issue in the next race. Things are really bad here. McClure is hiring people to investigate elder abuse and child abuse, he is trying to be fair to the workforce and retirees and doing all sorts of bad things like making sure municipalities know when grants are available and questioning Brown campaign contributor Charlie Chrin.

Anonymous said...

Determined to be illegal by the retirement board? Sounds more like cover for a policy change that will benefit the retirees and cost the taxpayers. Certainly the board can change the policy, but if it was "illegal" why wasn't a lawsuit or injunction request filed 20 years ago? If it were truly "illegal" why can't the retirees now sue for back payments plus interest? Imagine that after 20 years there could be a large contingency fee for recovery.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No one picked up on the problem until recently. The matter was researched and case law supports this change. County policy is always to follow the law. Like I said, you can make an argument in support of screwing retirees in the next election.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see the Union's protecting the employees on top of this.

Anonymous said...

Hey 6:53pm social security only takes out for part B not for part A.

Anonymous said...

7:02, I don’t think this has a thing to do with the union. Furthermore, this only affects retirees that were hired before1986, or thereabouts The county stopped providing health insurance to retirees that were hired after that time.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes, the unions had nothing to do with this decision.

Anonymous said...

Something stinks about this.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yeah, people like you, who are not happy unless retirees are getting screwed. Bet you were thrilled when Brown refused to give them a COLA. Unfortunately, with rare exceptions, this is the Republican party. Trump fooled a few into believing his is the party of the people, but they are not fooled any more.

Anonymous said...

Did these democrats set up an insider deal for buying things? What is Barron up to? Are new rules set up so only people on the inside know how to make money? Does anyone care about the little guy?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The procurement code was made more efficient, transparent and actually helps the little guy. But you hate that too

Anonymous said...

Chrin is one greedy SOB. He was supposed to pay for the interchange. He made a trip or two to Harrisburg, and got the payback of a lifetime. Now he won't live up to the TIF deal. Disgraceful.

We knew in our community that bridges the do not need replacement are targeted by this P3 project. I'm glad this was brought to light. Thank heaven we rid ourselves of Brownstain and have a chance to recover from his hair-brained schemes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You’ll notice that the Lee Snover Republican complaining about unions and retirees said nothing about Chrin.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if this affects current employees hired before Brackbill?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I can ask at thevretiree luncheon. McClure will be there to address them. But if you are a current employee, I suggest you ask HR.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a real mess and a can of worms.

Anonymous said...

3:52 I do believe you are wrong the medical was in place as of 1993 when I started there

Anonymous said...

Whatever the deal is at time of retirement is the deal that will be in place for that employee. It may not be lessened. Are u saying that this could not or was not part of any union negiotations?

Bernie O'Hare said...

It is clear to me that you are squirming around and trying to create some issue, any issue,with which to screw retirees. As for union consult, retirees are not part of any union.

Anonymous said...

Someone said that the bridges were on track for repair and replacement and the retirees were happy until now. What has happened this year to make all of this seem messed up?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Who is "someone"?

Mary Barket? Lee Snover? Tricia Mezzacappa?

The retirees can speak for themselves but definitely were unhappy with Brown, as the election proves.

Also, so far as I know, Kriger is on schedule and doing a good job.It is not their fault that GPA has gone rogue or that Brown has picked bridges to repair that don't need it or that one of the bridges had to be closed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Whatever the deal is at time of retirement is the deal that will be in place for that employee."

Actually, whatever the deal is at the time the employee started employment is the deal that must be honored at retirement.

Anonymous said...

As a retiree I speak to many other retirees when we get together. The biggest issue most retirees from the county have is the unrealistically low major medical limit. In the past some of the county executives have reset the limit for Part B, we are hoping that Mr. McClure will do the same. He received a great deal of support because Brown refused and we heard that Mr. McClure agreed with the reset.

Without that reset, many retirees cannot even use their retirement health care.

Anonymous said...

anon 7:07 is right. We need our medical refreshed more than anything. Most retirees would even contribute for that.

Anonymous said...

Issue a hold on the tiff for undeveloped parcels, Immediatly!

Anonymous said...

RE: MEADOWS BRIDGE ALERT!!!

1:06 and 1:56: I don't believe people are happy that another bridge in this area is failing/falling, but the sad fact is that it has been deteriorating for several years. Progressive Townships/Counties have seen their bridges fail and "REPLACED" them for the safety of motorists. This bridge could have been replaced years ago had it not been filibustered.

Instead, authorities in Lower Saucon have fought, interfered and opposed every effort to rectify this situation. Now, travelers are without, yet another, thoroughfare in Hellertown/Lower Saucon

This did not have to happen, AND did not happen overnight. Lower Saucon/Hellertown Voters: Remember this each time you encounter the bridge-closed signs (plural) at each end of Route 412 and respond accordingly in the voting booth.

Anonymous said...

Send Angle for the TIF money. He and Chrin cooked up this deal and now look at it! A loophole you could drive a garbage truck thru and no one saw this coming?

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows Angle and Stoffs knew this was going to blow up. They only do things for themselves. They always have, always will. I am sure the grease was thick when Angle and Chrin shook hands.

Anonymous said...

When will people realize that the Chrins don't give a damn about little people and will give their money to only those places that will help the Chrins or that have helped the Chrins in the past. Bend over Northampton County.