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New London - The City Council this week nearly doubled the annual pension payments for three disabled former New London police officers who were receiving less than $6,500 each a year.
The City Council unanimously approved the transfer of $17,685 from the contingency fund to a pension account to boost annual payments for the former officers to $12,000 each. The increases will be permanent.
The retirees - Richard Donovan, David Jetmore and Frank Cirioni - were receiving $5,467, $6,367 and $6,481 respectively, and those numbers had been stagnant for years because there are no automatic cost-of-living increases.
Jetmore, 71, one of the retirees to benefit, said he had been advocating for the pension increases for so long that many of the retirees hoping for a bump in annual payments are now dead.
"Over the years, I've contacted many councilors, met them, hand-delivered letters and really didn't get anywhere," Jetmore said. "No one was interested."
Jetmore was forced to retire in 1974 because of injuries he received in the line of duty. He was responding to a domestic disturbance and became involved in a melee with a man who was severely beating his girlfriend. He slammed his back on a bathtub during the scuffle and fractured two vertebrae.
Jetmore is the son of Melvin Jetmore Sr., who worked for 37 years as a New London police officer until his death of a heart attack in 1971. Jetmore said his father was home on a lunch break when it happened.
After years of being turned down, Jetmore said he revisited the issue of increasing pensions recently. At the suggestion of City Council member Michael Passero, he wrote a letter earlier this year to council President Wade Hyslop. This time, Jetmore said, the council was receptive.
He advocated on behalf of himself and four other officers who each earn well under $10,000. The City Council voted for increases in the three pensions that come directly out of the city's annual budget. The fourth comes from a separate pension fund.
"Fortunately, we had some good, intelligent councilors. They thought it was a righteous cause," Jetmore said. "I speak for all of us when I say we're very thankful they did this."
At the time he and others retired early because of injuries, Jetmore said the union was not allowed to address retirement benefits in contract negotiations and instead relied on a provision in the 1938 City Charter.
"The crafters of the City Charter in 1938 could not foresee the damage inflation would do to pensions. The Federal Government didn't add the concept of regular (cost of living increases) until President Eisenhower's time. The City of New London didn't follow in making that change," Jetmore wrote. "We loved the City of New London, served her proudly, and remain grateful for the opportunity. None of us thought that service would come to such an abrupt end."
Jetmore referenced a quote in the paper about the increase in New London's minimum wage being long overdue.
"Twenty-four years since the last raise in the pensions for these retirees; really long overdue," he wrote.
Councilor Erica Richardson on Wednesday said the council agreed that the former officers were being paid a minimal sum and hoped the increases would help. Passero called the amounts "embarrassingly low."
"Anyone that's provided service to the city … like these men, they should have a livable pension," Richardson said.