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May 15. 2013 8:51PM

Nashua alderman apologizes for offending city officials with pension comments

NASHUA — Alderman-at-Large David Deane publicly apologized on Tuesday for offending city officials and employees with comments he made recently about the Public Works pension plan.

"I guess I upset some people, so I would like to apologize," Deane said during a Board of Aldermen meeting.

Last week during an aldermanic Budget Review Committee meeting, Deane claimed an undisclosed Public Works employee recently received a $23,000 raise and is now ready to retire after serving 25 years with the department.

"The Public Works pension plan is predicated on your final year salary at 65 percent," said Deane. "… I just think that is gross negligence on the Public Works director's part."

In order to curtail this type of activity, Deane said he intends on drafting rules that would require employees to serve in certain positions for an extended period of time before receiving promotions that can significantly improve their pensions.

"It disturbs me to no end," Deane said at the time, calling the practice "nonsense."

On Tuesday, Deane apologized for using the term "gross negligence," but said he will not cease efforts to remedy the problem. Deane said he will choose better words when expressing his concerns in the future.

He also stressed that his comments were not a personal attack against the employee, arguing he doesn't even know the individual. Longevity of the pension plan, however, is in everybody's best interest, Deane said.

"Mayor, I did what you asked me to do," Deane said following the apology, referring to a letter Mayor Donnalee Lozeau wrote to Alderman Brian McCarthy, board president, in response to Deane's comments last week.

In her letter, Lozeau called Deane's statement a blatant attack on Public Works Director Lisa Fauteux, the Board of Public Works and the unspecified employee.

"Alderman Deane has no direct information that this employee has any intention of retiring in the near future," wrote Lozeau. "… Personal attacks, false accusations, conversations that question motives should not be allowed in the chamber. It is the collective responsibility of the body — be it committee or full board — to challenge inappropriate behavior, otherwise it reflects badly on the entire board."

She called on the Board of Aldermen, and Deane personally, to retract the comments and offer a public apology. The mayor also said Deane inappropriately commented on a hiring decision aldermen have no authority over. Lozeau said Deane's statements suggest the city should consider a person's age and retirement eligibility when making promotions.

On Tuesday, Deane said he never mentioned the worker's age, only his service of 25 years to the city. And although the Board of Public Works can hire its own employees, Deane said the Board of Aldermen, through the budget process, is responsible for appropriating money for those positions.

"I guess it really irritated me," Deane said during his apology, adding he will not back down about his concerns on pension issues.

If promotions are granted, Deane said workers should have to serve in those roles for five years — maybe even 15 years in the Public Works role being questioned — for the higher pension to be applied.

He vowed to prepare a resolution that would require positions to be filled for an extended period of time before pension increases are applicable, which, he said, would prevent situations like this from happening.

khoughton@newstote.com


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