At Monday’s council meeting, Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon passed out copies of a letter from the city’s actuaries, Gabriel Roder Smith Company, addressed to city Finance Director Ernie Zmyslinski informing him that the Warwick Firefighters/Police I Pension Fund meets the definition of “critical status” pursuant to state law.
According to Rhode Island General law 45-65, “critical status” is used to describe a pension plan that is severely underfunded.
Further, the letter stated that the Police/Fire I pension plan is 22.3 percent funded and had a liability of $242,127,650 as of June 30, 2011. To be determined as “critical status,” the funded ratio must be less than 60 percent.
Solomon is peeved because he feels Mayor Scott Avedisian “misled” Governor Lincoln Chafee of the city’s financial stability last week. Chafee praised Avedisian for leading a well-managed city when he appeared before the council last week to present his municipal aid package.
“There is nothing new here,” Avedisian said yesterday, “we all knew about it. I don’t see how anyone could say we misled anyone.”
At the meeting Monday, Solomon said he would have voted differently on a resolution endorsing Chafee’s legislative package had he seen the letter first. The resolution passed with an 8-1 vote. Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson voted in opposition.
“Was someone being disingenuous?” Solomon said. “Whether they were or they weren’t, it’s a personal decision on their part, however, to try to sweep a problem under the rug and keep it undercover so that people can be misled that they are in healthy financial status is terrible. This is not a personal issue. This is a public issue that needs addressing.”
The mayor’s chief of staff, Mark Carruolo, attended the meeting and spoke on behalf of Avedisian. He said the information is readily available online and was not a secret of any kind.
“There’s no deceit here,” said Carruolo. “The statute addresses the report. If you read the report, it should come to no surprise that Police and Fire 1 is underfunded. The letter is a certification letter that’s required so the city can notify participants of the plan that the plan is in critical condition. In 180 days ... the city appears before the review board and presents the plan at the appropriate time.”
Carruolo also stated that the city has been working with the treasurer, governor and auditor general on the plan for some time and that they are all aware of the plan’s status. But, Solomon didn’t want to hear it.
“I’m not going to point the finger at Mayor Avedisian, but shame on him for not sharing the information with us, the governor and the people of the city and state,” he said. “We’ve got a significant problem here. Someone has to make some decisions and it has to be done now. We have to be proactive, not reactive, to this issue.”
Moreover, Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla questioned why Avedisian is yet to sign a resolution the council recently approved that would allow actuaries to come before the council. From his point of view, the mayor doesn’t support it.
Again, Carruolo spoke on behalf of the mayor at Monday’s meeting. He said that he and other members of the mayor’s administration were looking into possible dates, as well as costs, related to the visit from actuaries.
“I think the councilman is making an assumption,” said Carruolo. “Just because it’s not signed yet doesn’t mean he won’t follow through.”
With that, Merolla said, “It could also mean he doesn’t support the resolution. If he didn’t sign it, I think a reasonable assumption would be that he doesn’t support it,” to which Carruolo replied, “That’s exactly right – it’s an assumption.”