When did generous become ridiculous?
Was it when the four employees who run the day-to-day operations
of the $450 million St. Louis Firemen's Retirement System got a
whopping 12 weeks of paid vacation, sick leave and holidays?
Or was it when they were given bonuses of up to $2,500 a year? Or
when nearly all of their medical and dental premiums were paid by
the system? Or when some of their salaries exceeded $100,000 a year
for jobs that required little to no training?
No. It was none of those things.
Generous became ridiculous when it was learned that each employee
is enrolled in three separate retirement plans and will be entitled
to three sets of retirement benefits. And St. Louis taxpayers are
paying for nearly all of it.
As reported in Sunday's Post-Dispatch by David Hunn and Nicholas
J.C. Pistor, the first retirement system gives each of the employees
a regular city pension. The second gives each of them a month's
salary, plus interest, for every year they are employed. The third
matches their own contributions, up to 6 percent of their salary
The pension fund workers aren't public employees. They work for
city firefighters, managing their retirement fund. But indirectly,
most of their salaries and benefits are paid by city taxpayers.
If the system's executive director, Vicky Grass, who is paid
$117,000 a year, were to retire from her job today, she'd get at
least a $300,000 payout.
Another of the employees, Patricia DeLunas, retired from her
$88,000-a-year position in December 2009. She left with $211,000 in
retirement cash and soon was rehired as a part-time worker with a
salary of $55,000 a year. Her payout included at least 670 hours of
unused vacation and sick leave.
Marilyn Williams, another of the system's four employees, is
married to Bruce Williams, one of the trustees on the pension board.
She was hired while he was serving on the board.
There are eight trustees on the board, five of whom are current
or retired firefighters, including Chief Dennis Jenkerson and Mr.
Williams. The board is mandated by state law with running the system
and overseeing the office workers.
St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green also serves on the board and
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has two appointees on the board. They
are Eddie Roth, director of operations for the city (full
disclosure, Mr. Roth was formerly a member of the Post-Dispatch
editorial board), and James Sondermann, special assistant to the
city water commissioner. …