Scranton, Lackawanna County- Imagine retiring and receiving not one, but the equivalent of two pension checks, after working for a city. That’s the issue in Scranton for at least 35 former employees.
For months, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has been searching through records more than 12 years old. Scranton’s double pension deal was given to 35 non-uniformed employees who retired in 2002 and 2007. The incentive has had a dire impact on the city’s current pension situation.
“It’s clear the double pension payments are at least partly to blame for the cities decline”, said PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
Before 2002, the pension plan was funded at at 78 percent. In 2003, fundings fell to nearly 50 percent. In 2015, pension plan funding went down to 23 percent.
“And along with fire and police pension are some of the worst funded in the entire state,” said DePasquale.
Mayor Bill Courtright and his team are working with the appropriate bargaining units to resolve the city’s pension issue.
“The double pension benefits for the 25 employees who retired in 2002 and the ten additional who were offered the benefit in 2007 following a lawsuit adds an extra. I repeat, an extra, $266,880 dollars annually of the cities pension cost”, added DePasquale.
Over the past 12 years, the double pension plan cost Scranton approximately $2.9 million dollars. But it’s still unclear how it was passed. Records show past officials talked about a possible pension increase. But there’s nothing on the record specifically about the double pension.
“They either knew and didn’t want to say on the record or they were passing it without knowing what it was. Either is completely irresponsible!” added DePasquale.
But one thing is clear, city officials did not follow proper procedures before implementing the plan. DePasquale says nine of those retiree’s should not have even received the benefits. But he also says those 9 had no reason to believe anything improper was happening.
“I’d like to say i’m surprised but i’m not, i’m more concerned with where do we go from here? How to we make sure those systemic issues that caused this never happen again”, said Current City Council Memeber Wayne Evans.
State police and the FBI are still investigating.