It’s tough to feel too sorry for a couple of City of Lackawanna employees whose salaries have been on the chopping block while they are also collecting their state pensions.
But the childish back and forth between the City Council and mayor with employees as the hockey pucks really ends up hurting taxpayers.
The Council and Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski haven’t seen eye-to-eye in a while. So much so that their squabbling brought the city to the brink of a fiscal crisis earlier this year.
The Council thought the mayor was spending too much, and unanimously adopted a $23.6 million budget that was $816,975 less than Szymanski proposed. That budget oversight is the Council’s prerogative, except that a small part of that savings came from slashing the salaries of Comptroller Robert Marciniak and Public Works Commissioner Thomas Love from about $30,000 each to $10,000 in an effort to get them to quit.
Both men threatened to leave. Marciniak, in fact, submitted his resignation. That would have left the city with no one legally able to move money between accounts. A couple of weeks later the Council came to its senses and agreed on a deal long enough for him to train his successor.
Love, at the mayor’s urging, is still hanging in as the head of public works, but at age 59 and with a state pension for 2012 listed at $84,389, he was ready and able to quit. He’d spent 38 years as a city public works employee and served in the mid-1990s as 3rd Ward councilman, and also worked for many years as a state corrections officer until his retirement in 2009.
Marciniak spent 39 years as a city employee and earns a state pension of more than $40,000 per year.
We have been opposed to such double-dipping – collecting what is often an overly generous state pension while also earning a salary from taxpayers. In this case it would save taxpayers some money.
Neither man can earn more than $30,000 in city pay, the maximum allowed annually under state pension law. Hiring qualified replacements would cost the city far more than the $30,000 the men are collecting now.
The mayor wants the city’s budget to reflect $58,000 as the full pay for the public works commissioner, to make it possible to replace Love when necessary.
The mayor makes a passionate case for these employees, first pointing out that the financially strained city would shut down without a comptroller, and threatening legal action in the wake of criticism leveled by the Council at Love for not attending its meetings.
Really, this isn’t about two employees and a total of $40,0000 in pay. It’s another installment in the bickering between the Council and mayor.
None of this helps the taxpaying citizens of this very small city that was built out of the long-gone tradition of Bethlehem Steel.
In these fiscally lean times, it is in the best interest of the City of Lackawanna that the folks running the place learn to get along and solve problems instead of exacerbating them.