MERIDEN — The city’s pension board earlier this month voted not to approve an early retirement application with normal benefits for emergency communications dispatcher Elizabethan Marotti.
Marotti, who serves as president of the union that represents dispatchers, was among the city employees whose pension applications the board reviewed.
During the Pension Board’s Nov. 9 meeting, which was conducted in a hybrid in-person and remote video conference format, City Manager Timothy Coon told the board that city leaders “in a managerial sense” feel there is “a need to restructure the department in order to enhance the public safety of the community, and be cost-effective and efficient in the city in the long term. As a result it was a managerial decision to pursue this option for this particular individual,” Coon said at the time.
Coon clarified in an email to the Record-Journal on Monday it was “ultimately my decision” to offer Marotti the early retirement as an incentive. Coon stated he made that decision “in consultation” with city Finance Director Kevin McNabola, Emergency Communications Director Doree Price, Human Resources Director Josephine Agnello-Veley and city attorney Emily Holland.
The Pension Board’s discussion of the application comes with the Emergency Communications Center experiencing staffing levels that union representatives had described as “inadequate” and “dangerous”.
Full staffing of the dispatch center would require no fewer than 12 trained full-time dispatchers. According to union officials, that number now stands at six.
With the Pension Board granting the retirement application for dispatcher Laurie Fox earlier this month, that number will be reduced to five. Meanwhile, seven dispatchers are currently in training, according to the union.
In October, union leaders and city officials reached an agreement allowing city officials to cover mandated overtime shifts with other public safety personnel — firefighters and police — if no dispatchers are available. The agreement also temporarily waives a previous requirement that dispatchers tasked with training other personnel must have five years’ experience on the job.
According to employment compensation figures provided to the board with Marotti’s application ahead of its Nov. 9 meeting, she had received $172,000 in 2021, $163,303 the previous year and $109,807 during 2019. The materials did not state whether those were calendar year or fiscal year calculations.
The figures did not break out earnings by category — base salary and tiers of overtime. However, overtime likely accounted for a large portion of the compensation Marotti received during both 2020 and in 2021.
During both years Marotti was compensated at levels more than double the highest base salary level as described in the union’s labor contract. For the fiscal year that started this past July 1, the highest base salary for dispatchers was $66,913.60. According to the union’s labor contract, that is the salary for a supervisory position at “Step G.”
Marotti’s service started in March 2004, and she has been employed by the city for 17 years and nine months, according to documents. In order to be eligible for “normal” retirement benefits, Marotti’s employment with the city would need to continue for another three years and six months, according to officials.
Pension Board members briefly discussed the application, before tabling it, in open session during the Nov. 9 meeting. The board resumed its discussions regarding the application in closed-door executive session during its Nov. 16 meeting. When the board reconvened that meeting in open session its vote denying the application was unanimous.
Pension Board members did not state the reasons for their votes during the Nov. 16 meeting. However, during the previous week’s meeting, it was clear from some board members’ public statements at that time they did not support approving the application.
“... My understanding is we’re asking for a normal retirement for someone who has not met the requirements for a normal retirement,” board chairman Robert Alia stated on Nov. 9. “I have concerns with that as a member of this board… I can say, ‘I’m not comfortable with it.’”
The union that represents the dispatchers is Local 1303-405 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council. AFSCME Council 4 spokesman Larry Dorman declined to comment. Marotti could be reached for comment.
Fox, a 26-year veteran who was hired in 1995, will retire on Dec. 24.