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Why elect city employees to New London council?

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published August 28. 2013 4:00AM

This was a summer in which the city police union flexed its political muscle in New London, packing public hearings and ultimately winning a showdown on expanding the police dog program.

The union and its supporters, including one city councilor, participated in a harmful crime scare campaign to make New London seem unsafe.

With a City Council race on the horizon, voters need to ponder the union sympathies and affiliations of candidates, especially in a new era when lucrative union contracts are becoming unaffordable here and around the country.

The size and costs of the city police and fire departments is going to dominate the political discourse in the years to come.

When a Connecticut newspaper did a story in 2009, "The Pension Game," about the way state employees use overtime pay in their closing work years to boost retirement income, a featured poster boy for the practice was Todd Lynch, president of the New London police union and the canine handler who stands to win the most from the dog expansion.

Lynch, formerly a state police trooper in charge of the state police canine unit, logged so many hours in his last full year on the job, 2007, that he retired with a pension of $73,000 a year, according to the newspaper story, some $20,000 more than he would have collected each year for life if he hadn't logged so much overtime in those closing years.

Lynch told the newspaper his overtime increased when he switched to the canine unit about three years before he retired. He said dog calls made for long days and many hours away from his family.

Last year, according to ctsunlight.org, the state salary and pension data website run by the Yankee Institute, Lynch's state pension, keeping up with the cost of living, was $84,367. His New London police salary is in the city budget this year for $65,654.94, without overtime. Another $10,575.50 for Lynch is in the budget to help fund his next pension, from the city.

Managing police dogs has turned out to be a lucrative career.

But Lynch, who is also suing the city, is only one small example of the way state and municipal employees and union-fueled entitlements are pushing governments large and small to the fiscal brink.

Generous defined pension plans, which have largely become a thing of the past in the world of private business, are still hanging around the necks of government budget keepers, kept there by politically active unions.

In New London, you have to wonder what city Democrats were thinking in nominating again two city union workers for the City Council. Councilors should be guarding the fiscal henhouse, not feasting.

Included on the Democratic slate are incumbents Michael Passero, a city firefighter, and Anthony Nolan, a city policeman.

That makes two of seven councilors who shouldn't vote on a whole range of issues related to the large and expensive city police and fire departments. And yet they do, including support for expanding Lynch's police dog empire.

During the police dog fight this summer, the council, which should take an adversarial role in negotiating with the municipal unions, instead rolled over like a contented lap dog, looking for a belly rub.

Just this week, a committee of the council put all four legs up in the air again when union carpenters demanded a reinstatement of a policy that will help guarantee union participation in the awarding of new building contracts in the city.

Next time voters go to the polls, they should think about whether candidates will be more loyal to the city or their unions, as they face more tough decisions about fire and police staffing.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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