Serving out of dedication for Melrose
By Peter Mortimer / Melrose Alderman
Posted Oct. 24, 2014 @ 8:23 am
Based on the article in [this week's] Free Press you may be wondering why I applied for pension benefits, including health insurance, in 2013, if I wanted to continue working as an Alderman.
The first reason is that I would be a bad father and a bad husband if I did not. The second reason is I wanted to continue to serve Melrose.
Here’s the why of the first reason:
When I was elected and began to serve in 2001 the rule was that an Alderman who had served for 10 years was eligible to receive retirement benefits upon reaching age 55.
Whether you agreed with that rule or not isn’t the point. That’s what the rule was and the point is that it’s unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game.
In the fall of 2011, I had served 10 years and I had reached age 55. I could have walked away with my retirement benefits.
But I still wanted to serve Melrose and continue to help to keep Melrose the wonderful city that it was then and is now. I did not mind continuing to work for $5 an hour, secure in the knowledge that my pension benefits were vested and could not be taken away from me and my family.
Or so I thought.
I was re-elected in the fall of 2013 for a new term to begin in January of 2014. I soon found out that the governor had filed a bill that would require 20 years of service and reaching the age of 60 to access pension benefits, even if you were already vested.
Obviously this potential drastic change was very distressing. I researched the law and found that for elected public servants each new term is a new hiring and that this was how I could prevent the rules from being changed unfairly in the middle of the game.
I submitted my pension application in December of 2013.
I could have quit right then, but I still wanted to serve the city I love. I wanted to spare Melrose the cost of a special election.
Of course, I wanted to retain the pension benefits that I had already earned for my family. I had learned that the law allows an elected public servant to do so. It would have been foolish not to.
The state retirement board ruled that it was perfectly appropriate and legal. Based on the ruling of the state, the Melrose Retirement Board voted unanimously that my application for pension benefits was proper and they accepted it.
The Melrose Retirement Board is made up entirely of Melrose employees and retirees, the majority of whom are Melrose residents.
You may be wondering how the $5 an hour noted above is figured. For those who may not be aware, the job of Alderman requires much more time and attention than the four to six Alderman meetings we attend each month.
Aldermen, at various times, also attend meetings of the Park Commission, the Traffic Commission, the Conservation Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Board, construction project meetings and neighborhood meetings, among others.
All of these meetings require preparation and homework. We Aldermen receive and return dozens of phone calls and emails each month. We attend and support community events.
The hours are easily over 20 per week. The $5,000 annual salary we receive is less than $100 per week, which is less than $5 per hour.
Aldermen and city councilors in the neighboring cities of Malden, Somerville and Medford earn $20,000 or more per year, for the same work, with the same benefits and pension as Melrose.
Clearly, we serve out of dedication to Melrose.
I for one applaud Peter for his honesty and for being upfront with the residents of Melrose about this situation and explaining the details of it (along with the other article elsewhere on this board). I have had many occasions to call on Peter for his support and help in Ward 6 issues and he has always provided me his support and help particularly when involving Mount Hood and the protection and preservation of our precious woodlands. Having watched him as our Ward 6 Alderman over a decade as an exemplary member of the Board, a knowledgeable and intelligent person, always polite and gracious, extending himself to help anyone in need whether inside or outside Ward 6, I have come to the conclusion that we Ward 6 residents (and the city as a whole) are getting the better of this financial deal! In my humble opinion, Peter represents the best traits of "public service".
Would love to see how he worked over 20 hours per week for the last 12 plus years on City issues.
“That’s not fair, changing the rules in the middle of the game,” Mortimer told the Free Press.
I haven't heard many people complain about his taking a pension that was allowable under the law when he took the position. What I have heard many complain about is his being on city health care to the tune of $17,479.00 a year for the rest of his life. Not a bad quid pro quo for one vote approving the Mayor's pay raise.
Apparently it's okay with him if the rules are changed to his benefit in the middle of the game. “If they want to go forward and make future aldermen not have health insurance, that’s beside the point.” Cute. Future Aldermen - which means not you, right? You've got yours.
Meanwhile, the Mass Taxpayers Foundation, year after year, continues to lobby to "change the rules in the middle of the game" trying to reduce benefits for retirees who worked full time their whole career and have no law practice to fall back on. "That really has nothing to do with this,” Mortimer rebutted.
Clearly there are two sets of rules in play here - one for elected officials (politicians), and one for everyone else. Sickening.
Here's another example of the two sets of rules. An elected official has to wait one year before he can take another job without being subject to the earnings restrictions. For everyone else, the restriction is for life. So a politician can take another job after one year at full pay, and be eligible for another pension down the road, otherwise known as double dipping.
The other side of that coin? A retired cop worked details, and what he earned from those, most of which occurred more than a year after he retired, exceeded his earnings limit. He had to pay every dime of the excess earnings back to the city, so he essentially worked for nothing. Even worse, he had already paid state and federal income taxes on that money, which he never recovered, so he took a net loss of about 30%.
According to the rules in place for him, not being a politician with a one year restriction, PERAC's finding was that he was functioning as an employee of the city, so the repayment was technically correct, even though his earnings came from private contractors and the city paid by vendor check, not a payroll check, never took withholding, as they are required to do by federal law for all "employees", and did not make appropriate payments to the unemployment fund, as they are also required by law to do for all "employees". They also took a 10% fee for every dollar he earned. That money was never returned to him either.
Just remember folks....Peter didn't make all these rules...and I bet most of you voted for all these politicians who made these rules. So don't blame him for living under them! Look in the mirror and blame the person in the mirror!
Get off it, Myron. He asserts that changing the rules in the middle of the game is unfair, when that's exactly how he got his health care for life.
God helps those who help themselves, especially at the expense of OTHERS!
The Adventures of Pete the Politician should be an SNL skit. Just can't make this stuff up.
Morty is like Waldo, showing up in every picture in town. You know if you see a picture of an event in the newspaper the immediate response is "Where's Morty?"
His "to go" bags at public events are the thing of legends.
Myron Two Face shows up again and his thinly veiled façade of responsible government falls apart with this one. He likes Morty, so whatever Morty does is OK. He doesn't like Dolan or the SC so they can do no right.
Wouldn't Morty & Myron be the creepiest television show since Pee Wee Herman? or the Wiggles?
Myron, you have no credibility. You're just a bagman for the anti-Dolan crowd.
Once again folks, you need to keep in mind that this is an Insiders Club with Mortimer being one of the Ultimate Insiders in the game. His meals are free, his to-go bags larger than Santa's sack on Christmas Eve, but we're stuck paying for this losers near $20k insurance for life. The other two wilder beasts are next but still recovering from IBS at the Victorian Fair.
You can always tell when a person loses an argument when they can only throw insults and demean others and provide no facts to back up their position.
Here's a fact for you, Myron, which I don't see you denying: "He asserts that changing the rules in the middle of the game is unfair, when that's exactly how he got his health care for life." You are right about one thing, though. The voters of Melrose did elect those that changed the rules in the middle of the game - giving the Aldermen GIC - in a quid pro quo so Dolan would get his raise.
Welcome to Massachusetts politics. Best government money can buy.
Exactly what I said! In the final analysis.....Peter broke no rules. If people do not like the games that politicians play with their money, then make the necessary changes at the ballot box!
You rant about the teacher's contract, about the Super's salary, about the Mayor's raise, all of which broke no rules either, but this is okay with you? It's wrong, Myron, and you being a friend of his doesn't make it any less wrong. Don't be a hypocrite.
I have already given you my opinion about this above. I believe that the residents of Ward 6 including the city at-large are fortunate to get such a dedicated, committed, public service elected official to represent them at Board meetings. One only needs to see how he conducts himself at their meetings, and in public gatherings, and how he diligently and faithfully helps his constituents, to know the reason why he is elected Ward 6 Alderman at every election. For all you haters and detractors of Peter Mortimer out there, this must be difficult to accept, but accept you must!
Now you're resorting to the old "haters" mantra? This had nothing to do with what kind of a person or alderman he is. This is about giving life long health care to a retired part time employee to the tune of $17,500 a year. Expecting he will live another 20 years means that will cost the city $350,000.00. If it was anyone else, you'd be up in arms about it.
Whatever limited credibility you had just went right out the window. You're a hypocrite.
MFD: Resorting to the administration's practice of calling people with alternate views "haters" does not reflect well on you, someone who has given many years of service to Melrose and from whom many of us expect a higher standard of conduct. It is indeed hypocritical and does nothing except further a toxic atmosphere to behave thus.
There are many citizens who question and oppose the manner, validity, and timing in which the GIC was provided to the five aldermen who signed on. This scrutiny is legitimate for any taxpayer, as surely you understand as someone who has demanded transparency and accountability from the school administration.
Just because this particular alderman has gone public with his explanation doesn't mean that it is noble or correct for him to have accepted this GIC coverage, whether it was "legal" or not.
Yes, the ultimate responsibility of the citizen is to go to the polling place and cast a vote, a responsibility that increasingly fewer of Melrose citizens take to heart. It is also the responsibility of the population to speak up, and citizens should be able to do so without being labeled "haters." An apology from you would be in order if you value your own integrity.
Well said by both of the last two posters.
Total cost for those five over 20 years - $1,750,000.00, assuming no increase in premium. Assuming a 5% per year premium hike over that time - $4,650,000.00.
Mayor's pay raise - $26,000.00 per year. Twenty year cost - $$520,000.00. Total twenty year cost of Mayor's pay raise - $5,170,000.00.
When I refer to "haters" I am referring to those how mock others with demeaning remarks and personal insults not those who offer legitimate counter-opinions and viewpoints as those expressed previously. I can not be expected to apologize for calling out those who express such personal vindictive and hatred comments.
No, MFD. Your usage constitutes hate-mongering. "One only needs to see how he conducts himself at their meetings, and in public gatherings, and how he diligently and faithfully helps his constituents, to know the reason why he is elected Ward 6 Alderman at every election. For all you haters and detractors of Peter Mortimer out there, this must be difficult to accept, but accept you must!"
Even if you didn't mean your remarks hatefully, your construct is tantamount to lumping any "detractors" into one hateful category. Further, no one is obligated to "accept" your rationale, which isn't rational in the views of many of us.
Listen...Wrong...you know exactly for whom I refer to as "haters" so don't try to rationalize their poor behavior. It only calls into question yours!
Concur, are you a complete morin or a liar or both. Try using a calculator you fool. Your multiplication needs some help.
MFD, by your own definition you are a hater. You mock City officials with demeaning remarks and offer no constructive opinions or comments, and certainly have never done a thing to improve a situation you constantly b*thc about. Thanks for clearing it up.
Well, I don't know what a morin is, I'm neither a liar nor a fool, and I did use a calculator. Let me spell it out for you. $17,500 (city cost) per year times 5 (# of GIC takers) = $87,500 per year times 20 (years) = $1,750,000 plus 20 compounded 5% increases = $4,650,000.
$26,000 raise (Mayor) times 20 (years) = $520,000 plus $4,650,000 = $5,170,000.
My guess is you have no clue how to calculate compounded increases, so here's some advice for you - it's better to be thought an idiot than to open your mouth and confirm it.
One small note: One of the 5 GIC-Takers lost his reelection bid (Seaboyer), so it's down to 5, unless, of course, either of the two new aldermen signed up. Does anyone know?
It's not true that MFD "offers no constructive remarks" because he has often and for many years done so. He obviously cares and he obviously takes the time to think about a lot of things. In this case, though, there are many who would disagree not only with what he said but with the less than dignified or fair way of stating his opinion.
If this op ed piece written by Peter Mortimer isn’t a call to vote all the GIC takers off the board of aldermen I don’t know what is! What Peter doesn’t seem to realize is that in his poorly written attempt to justify his taking of life long health insurance benefits and a pension off the backs of Melrose tax payers he has codified the need to get rid of career politicians. You want to be a good father Peter? Nice way to set an example for your children that Daddy knows how to thwart the “rules from being changed unfairly in the middle of the game.”
Peter’s not the only one that knows how to play the “game”. John Tramontozzi, Robert Boiselle and the consummate professional living off the tax payer, Mary Beth McAteer-Margolis , are all well versed in playing “the game”. Maybe the reason Govenor Patrick filed the bill requiring 20 years of service was because anything short of that would be “unfair” to the tax payers.
For once I’m really glad the Free Press printed this informative piece of trash.
To Correction....I welcome your remarks...the only issue I have with them is the note that some of my remarks were "less dignified"....please support this by quoting any comments I have made in this string since I can not find any "undignified" comments I ave made. I really hope you are not referring to my use of the word "haters" since I have already defined previously what I mean by that word.
Myron. Supporting Peter Mortimer in his money grab off the tax payers’ backs goes against everything that you have espoused here. Who gets to retire after 10 years on the job with lifelong benefits? Would you give that to any of the people in your employ? I doubt it.
You may consider him a friend and perhaps a great alderman in your ward. What he is doing is certainly not illegal but is morally reprehensible. His choice takes taxpayer monies away from the resources that could be going to better our schools and lower water rates and taxes. Soon to follow in his footsteps will be Margolis, Tramontozzi and Boiselle. Disgusting. I'm with Willie....vote the bums out!!!
MFD: "For all you haters and detractors of Peter Mortimer out there, this must be difficult to accept, but accept you must!"
That is an undignified and irrational remark. "all you haters" is a generalized pejorative, no matter how MFD tries to "define" it. "accept you must!" is condescending, patronizing, silly, and disrespectful of the premise that each is entitled to one's own opinion, and that acceptance of another person's opinion comes when one is convinced, not forced.
MFD has railed about bad conduct on the school committee and from the mayor. This remark of his is in the same denigrating, accept-what-I-say-or-else vein of those he criticizes. I agree, that despite many intelligent and thoughtful remarks the past couple of years, this thing should inspire a sincere apology if the man cares about being taken seriously.
This is my last statement about this matter since I think that we are getting to the point of "diminishing returns" with further discussions about my thinking on this matter. I certainly agree with extending to 20 years before collecting these health benefits and by the way, we wouldn't be in this situation if our Mayor had not given these Aldermen this "gift"! Thanks Mr. Mayor for giving out "public candy" to your friends.
My comment about, "but accept you must" refers to the fact that nothing illegal was done and no laws were broken, so there is nothing that can be done to stop him from collecting. You can disagree certainly with it, hate it, despise the people involved, think it unfair, a waste of money, etc. I think that you would be hard-pressed to find anyway to disagree with you on this.
The question of whether Peter Mortimer knew he was going to pull the retirement stunt prior to his election in November of 2013 is a fair one to ask. Shortly after the election, in December of 2013 according to his letter, he retired. Then he came back. This raises numerous questions about the process of electing aldermen in Melrose.
The first question has been raised. The second question is, can an Alderman retire from his post and then return of his own free will or should the seat then be declared open after his retirement? Why would his retirement not immediately suggest a new election must be held since upon his retirement, the seat is then open? How is it he is allowed to retire but retain his seat?
This seems to the seminal question missed in this discussion to date.
Vote out any "alderperson" who currently steals from fellow Melrose citizens by taking their hard earned money to pay for health insurance. Any elected official who takes/has taken/will in the future take Melrose tax dollars for their private insurance have zero credibility on any fiscal matters. They are hypocrites and phonies!
If you count wandering around downtown looking for people to harass and hands to shake, he puts in about 50 hours a week!
Such insipid comments, La Morte.
At least 2 people are planning to run against PM next fall.
Insipid to the irrational, maybe.
Morty, like all local pols, has nothing to offer but his jawbone. I have no problem with that. It's just that his jawbone is flapping as much as the rest of the BOA put together!
Myron seems to be a guy of bizarrely contradictory likes and dislikes.
As far as Mortimer is concerned, Myron is a one-trick pony. Mortimer takes a lot of interest in Mt. Hood, not surprising since he lives about two feet from there, and that's also Myron's cause. I have no problem with that. What annoys me, though, is the deafening silence from Myron about other issues - like Mortimer being one of those sucking GIC benefits. Guaranteed Myron would be raising holy hell about how awful it was if Mortimer wasn't one of those getting it.
It's me again - took a holiday break but back again!
I believe that I have already stated that I am not in favor of providing GIC health benefits to these volunteer city positions like the BOA even though they are elected officials. But you all have misplaced anger - our illustrous Mayor is the one who gave them these benefits. You all elected him so go and complain to him - but I think you don't have the courage or guts to do that so you jump all over Peter and his colleagues. How the Mayor thinks that it is o.k. to offer these benefits to the BOA while not offering them to others such as the school committee is beyond me. Of course the BOA is the group that votes his pay raise so therein lies the problem. But of course no one would think of complaining to the Mayor - write your letters to him since he is the only one that has control over this action!
But of course we will all hear crickets rather than ranting and raving to the Mayor about this matter!
Bull pucky, Myron. If Mortimer had an ounce of character, he'd have refused to take the benefit, and if he wasn't getting it, you'd be screaming your head off about those who were. Is it hard bloviating out of both sides of your mouth at the same time?
Myron, you're so completely full of crap it's leaking out your ears. We're not talking about the quid pro quo - GIC for Mayoral raise - between the Mayor and the Aldermen. Everyone who participated in that boondoggle, including the Mayor (who proposed it initially) is ethically bankrupt. What we're talking about is your unwillingness to hold your buddy Mortimer accountable for his part in that, and for being one of those who accepts GIC. It isn't just the Mayor who's at fault - those who voted for the raise and accept the benefit are equally despicable. You can't have it both ways. You've got your own quid pro quo with Mortimer - he's one of your supporters vis a vie Mt Hood, so you won't criticize him for GIC, instead choosing to blame it all on the Mayor. Seems to me it's you who's the hypocrite.
Get off it Myron. You're willing to condemn one side (the Mayor) of this backroom deal but not the other (the Aldermen). We're talking about Mortimer specifically because that's whose letter was published in the article that was the subject of this string. I think anyone who took part in this scam is a scumbag, not just Mortimer, and it was his pathetic attempt to justify the whole thing that started this.
"I think that you seem to have a personal grudge against Peter which drives your illogical and inane verbal outrage on this matter." I've never even met Peter, Myron, unlike you, who are unwilling to hold him accountable here based on you relationship with him. It's your bias on display here, not mine. It's always clear when you know you're way off base - you resort to garbage like this attack on me. When you are secure in your belief in an issue you don't ever do that. Shame on you.
On this matter, we will need to agree to disagree.