Setting the Record Straight BY ROGER VITOLO

eHezi Archives 40 Comments

YFD Memorial

Yonkers Firefighters Memorial

As a firefighter for the City of Yonkers, I feel a need to set the record straight. There has been a lot of talk in the press and from political hopefuls about payroll abuse of civil service workers, and “pension padding”. Sensational headlines like to point out civil service personnel, particularly emergency service workers, earning high salaries. If a firefighter or police officer earns well above their base salaries, you can be sure of one thing – he or she worked their rear end off doing it. No one is being paid any money that they are not earning. Overtime is necessary because there are not enough regularly scheduled members to do the work that needs to be done to keep the public safe. How overtime is dispersed among members of the department is of no cost to the City. When overtime must be worked, it is of no financial consequence when some members work more overtime than others. Whether all overtime is worked by one individual, or it is spread out among the entire department, the net cost to the city remains the same. Most often, those members who are pointed out as being paid high salaries are willing to work whenever they are needed, and do whatever work needs to be done. They spend countless hours away from their families, working graveyard shifts on holidays, or taking traffic details that no one else wants, just to try and make a better life. Their reward for such diligence is being vilified in the press and by politicians for abusing the system. 

As for “pension padding”, the first question that must be asked is, what is pension padding? Does this term imply anything illegal or unethical? If so, I can unequivocally state that there is no pension padding going on among City of Yonkers emergency service personnel. If the term refers to retiring members working within the parameters established by state civil service laws to maximize the benefits that they have worked and laid their lives on the line for, than yes, we are guilty of that. First of all, it must be stated that when a member retires, the City’s financial obligations to that member cease. The New York State Police and Fire Retirement System pays members’ pensions, based on formulas established and negotiated years ago. According to the Office of the New York State Comptroller, which oversees the pension fund, “the fund remains one of the strongest, most secure public pension plans in the United States”. The amount of money the City pays into the pension system per member each year varies according to the general economic climate. The City likes to point out that the contribution rate has been above 15% in recent years, and is expected to go up more in years to come. What they fail to mention is that for 5 years straight from 1999 to 2003, they contributed virtually nothing due to booming economic times. 

What about the money that was saved during those banner years? Why was none of it put aside for when the boom ended?  Labor takes the blame for high expenses in bad years, yet management shares none of the blame for their fiscal mismanagement during good years. 

The bottom line is that the City of Yonkers has some of the most dedicated, hard working firefighters and police officers in the country, and all we are asking for is what has been promised us since the day we were sworn in – the opportunity to work hard for fair compensation, and a decent pension after our careers are over. The New York State Police and Fire Retirement System is different than the retirement system for other state workers, for good reason. The average life expectancy of firefighters and police officers has been established as 9 years shorter than that of the general population. This is due to the stress of the job, as well as the toxic environment in which members often find themselves working. One would think, after enjoying the safety and freedom afforded to its residents at such a great cost, the City would expect and indeed encourage its public safety officers to retire with a decent pension. At the very least, we should not be made out to be villains and ripped apart in the press for trying to better ourselves while doing our jobs protecting the city.

Roger Vitolo is a Fire Chief with the Yonkers Fire Department.

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eHeziSetting the Record Straight BY ROGER VITOLO

Comments 40

  1. But how is it abuse when it is negotiated and accepted as part & parcel of the support bestowed upon the various politicians by the unions? Also, your choice of words (rational person, backroom deals, manipulated, steering, etc.) implies almost ILLEGAL actions. Who among us knows what return a politician grants those who back him/her? I could understand a hot topic like abortion or gun control being something to come up during a campaign speech, but the simple backing of ANY union should be indication enough to the average layperson that there is a REASON this union is backing him/her. Additionally, I feel it’s extremely important to point out that pensions are HALF of the average of 3 years or the final year’s salary (depending on when you were hired). Many posting here seem to have a different impression. That means someone earning an average of $120,000 -$140,000 gets a pension of $60,000 -$70,000. If one can live ‘high on the hog’ on that kind of salary, in a time when houses AREN’T paid off by retirement, still within an hour of this general area, please tell me how it can be done. I’ll file my papers tomorrow. The opinions expressed by many here lead one to believe that after 20-30 years of service, retirees should sell their homes & move somewhere else because they certainly can’t afford to live NEAR Westchester County, never mind IN Westchester County, if the posters here have their way. If ANYONE bought a home in the general area in the last 10 years with a 30 year mortgage, you’re probably paying an inflated price because of the real estate market at the time and consequently will have a rough time making extra payments to cut some time out of those 30 years. This is the economic climate many of you encountered & if I was entirely off base, the pension system WOULDN’T be structured the way it is. Why should the standard of living for retirees be compromised to the point of uprooting their families & relocating? It’s ridiculous & ungrateful to the point of being offensive. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not splitting the atom any time soon but just off the top of my head, IF pensions were based SOLELY on one’s last year’s base salary, why wouldn’t the unions push for some kind of ‘step’ or increase in that last year’s base? And if the numbers presented here STILL allow retirees to live like ‘multimillionaires’, let me in on where YOU’RE investing & I’d like to nominate you for a couple of treasurer positions!

  2. Your point that the pension system has been in effect
    for decades does not mean that the pension system
    is sustainable nor that it was something that the
    general public was aware of..nor that it remotely
    has any relationship to what any rational person would
    view as fair…it was the product of political deals
    made by unions in return for their support…done in
    backrooms without the consent of those paying the bill
    ie no one really knew that overtime would be manipulated because the formulas were on the surface was only when supervisors managed to steer
    excess overtime to those about to retire in a systematic way for the sole purpose of enhancing the
    amount of the pensions that anyone realized the game
    that was being played…no one is contesting that the
    unions made political deas in their self interest…clearly that is why they get the
    most for their members..but when the deals they make
    stand to bankrupt the municipalities they work for
    because those deals result in things like pension
    padding…as pointed out by the attorney general..that’s when the general public gets its back
    up as it has now..and demands an end to the abuse.
    you can pick up the post..the daily news the new york
    times and read about the kinds of pensions being drawn
    done based on one year or three years of overtime..
    its not going to continue because the public will not
    tolerate the practice..unions are entitled to negotiate
    a fair contract but not a contract that permits members
    to retire as the equivalent of a multimillionaire while
    the highest years salary was 90,000 while on the job
    its simply unacceptable and it has nothing to do with
    politicians with whom the unions didn’t support…this
    abuse was bipartisan and done by politicians of both
    parties..and now it will be undone by politicians
    of both parties

  3. Talk about wasteful money, now with Yonkers Engine 308 now ellminated, that brand new ALF Engine that was just delivered about 3 weeks ago, and was assigned as Engine 308, is now just sitting collecting dust.

  4. Nothing at all disingenuous about what I said. The pension structure, negotiated & overseen by various administrations backed by union workforces, has been in place for DECADES. That’s the make up of the democratic process: an organization, ANY organization, unites & backs a candidate EN MASS to further their particular agendas. Unions back the person who will do the most for them. How else does one vote? Whether it’s your stance on abortion or gun control, are you going to vote for someone who DOESN’T share your interests? But I digress, this is our political process & it has been the norm for DECADES. Only because of the negative spin campaign put forth by a SMALL number of SMALL individuals; that those with union jobs ‘aren’t suffering to the extent that the general public is suffering’ & therefore ‘should take on some level of sacrifice to show their solidarity with those the swore to serve’, has ANY of this NOW become an issue! When I say unions didn’t get us into this mess, I stand by that 100%. This is nothing more than an opportunistic grab by politicians who we DIDN’T back for various reasons who were salivating for the perfect time to strike. Unions didn’t bust the real estate market, they didn’t bury the banks, didn’t bail out car companies & didn’t give away the store when it came to economic development in this city. Mayor Amicone just recently gave an interview where he said that UPON COMPLETION of Ridge Hill, tax revenue would arrive. This didn’t have to be the case but was done because times were good & most everyone involved thought we could afford to wait. When the average home owner has plans approved for an extension to his/her home, they start paying additional real estate taxes on the new assessed value BEFORE the work is completed. Now I understand the difference between Joe Blow & a multi million dollar development but the argument that economic times were different apply to ALL deals around here. The bottom line is before a politician even THINKS of pissing off a big time developer, he’s going to go after the little civil servant. Forgive us for standing up for ourselves & seeing this for what it is, nothing but an attempt to raid our contracts & change our working conditions to further more personal agendas.

  5. but lawyers dont bill for hours that they never do for their clients…talk about padding HA lawyers are the dirtbags of the world and probably give half the amount of service they actually bill for.

  6. My take…why has this overtime questioning just started around these time? my answer because economic times are bad, if economic times were good noone would be saying anything about it. There are much larger reasons that the city is messed up compared to the salaries of police and fire department members. Is it fair that OBAMA, that moron bailed out banks and securities companies, and not poor old small time entrepreneur? NO of course not. and when the executives of these companies were still handed their Million bollar bonuses..and people know what their answer was….”it was part of a contract” well the police and fire have contracts too. So anything has to be negotiated regardless of how “unfair” or “wrong” you think it is…and people that want police anbd fire effected just remember might think you “won” but in the long run you will pay even more due to the city receiving a much lower fire rating for insurance..

  7. I think he is saying that he is a lawyer and no one should make as much as lawyers. After all they are much smarter than the common working class and no matter how many hours you work you should not be entitled to reap the benefits.

  8. Anon, (edelman) Why do you keep saying that Overtime is given specifically to those about to retire rather than spreading it around??? Do you have any proof of this, or is it just another edelman lie??
    Are you allowed to make up lies about cops and firemen? Is it ok for you to lie because you are a lawyer and that’s what P.I. Lawyers do?
    I know in the Yonkers Fire Department and Police Department, there is overtime for whoever wants it because both departments are so grossly understaffed.
    Are you suggesting that you, or someone else should force every member to work the exact same number of overtime hours?
    Are you suggesting that cops and firemen should not be allowed to work any overtime once they are nearing their 20th year?
    What are you saying?

  9. Well said, Set The Record Straight Across Both Sides.
    My take: we need to get on the road of ending ALL PENSIONS. Matching 401k type accounts is the future. The money is paid immediately, so there is no worry about future budgetary crisis. That’s good for everyone.

  10. Its not the unions that got this city into the mess its in. Sure excessive overtime is a problem but its not the only problemor even a major cause. Look at your tax bills when they come next week. At least half if not more goes into that money pit called the board of education. With the rest of that money, half or a little less we get 24 hr a day police, fire, medical services. We get street lights. garbage pickup, water and sewer services. This also takes care of our parks, city hall (including the friends and family club)it pays to repair all city equipment and supplies.So in the scheme of things the unions only pay a small part of our budget crisis,.

  11. The politicians could always have turned down union support but they did not because their primary goal is to get elected. The losers are the ones who complain about union perks and support. Unions were set up to protect their members not the politicians. As for the taxpayers not knowing about the “perks” that were negotiated that is a load of bull. Elected officials are supposed to be there for one simple reason, to represent the people and do what they think is right and fair. No one can help if the politicians choose not to inform the public about every decision they make. Do you honestly feel that any level of government lets the people know about most if any deals or contracts made. This country or any other would never function if everyone had to be informed before deals were negotiated. THATS WHY WE ELCT OFFICIALS IN THE FIRST PLACE. Any CEO knows that if he gave away more raises and perks than his company could afford the stockholders would get rid of him. I’m pretty sure all the stockholders are not informed about every negotiation with employees. I’m a stockholder in a few companies and I have not been called yet about any contractual negotiations.

  12. When you make the statement that the unions didn’t get us into this mess but rather The politicians did you are being a bit disingenuous. The notion that pensions could Be based on overtime accumulated in the last year or last three years of ones working
    Career were foisted on the politicians by the unions in return for the union’s support At election time.these were back room deals made without the knowledge of the taxpayers And made with taxpayer money that was being given away in return for poltical support. Sure the politicians should have said no..but what about the proposition that the unions Shouldn’t have asked for the deals in the first place..and what about the notion that Overtime given specifically to those about to retire rather than spreading it around
    Solely to enhance the value of the pension was tantamount to fraud. You can blame All the politicians you want but it takes two to tango…

  13. Would that be the same mayor who ‘years ago’ stood in front of a microphone at Tara’s & thanked the YFD for helping him beat Mike Spano in the republican primary? That is called POLITICS. As a candidate, you do what’s necessary to win & where things go from there, anybody knows (especially, but certainly not limited to,in Yonkers). And I’m curious, what ‘bullying & posturing’ are we referring to? Rallies & press conferences? That’s bullying? Should leadership just ALLOW their work force & work ethic to be questioned as to their commitment & reliability? Even if it IS hyperbole (which it’s NOT), it’s incumbent for leadership to protect & fight for it’s membership. I’m POSITIVE many of the posts expressed here are from people looking to protect no more than they’re current standard of living. I highly doubt ANYONE is looking for raises OR sympathy but this is what happens when deliberately erroneous & misleading statements are made: people get upset & defensive. Does anyone else feel it’s almost comical that different factions of our workforce are here validating our respective jobs? We’re called ‘essential services’ for a reason. I don’t need to hear what makes cops, firemen, and the DPW tick. But for the millionth time, NONE OF THEM got us ALL into this mess. They will continue to do their jobs but we need our elected officials; not just our local representatives but our state reps as well; to do their jobs & get the necessary funding from the state. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. If our ELECTED officials can’t do something above and beyond what they or their predecessors have done in the past, then maybe it’s time to give someone else a shot.

  14. Where is the information that the state has 130 billion of unfunded pensions costs. I could find that the pension system is worth 130 billion dollars and has outlays of 7.5 billion. Where do your numbers come from? Some mis-spoken politician I presume.

  15. Well said Set. Unfortunately they have unions and taxpayers at each others throats. The unions did not give away the city, the just took what was offered to them. The real culprits are the Mayor and his gang of parasites. They are the ones that have given this city to the developers. Some of the unions and some residents were at fault for supporting these development schemes, but hey we all make mistakes. Right now we must focus like a laxer beam on “city haul” and make sure that every penny in taxpayer dollars is spent for the betterment of our city and not for any more of these schemes. Accountability is a must. Every council rep. who votes to raise our taxes to feed this beast should be hounded out of office. It is our city and we will demand accountability from our representatives.

  16. It’s time for a reality check in the city of hills. All of those on the taxpayer tit, meed to realize, there is no more money, you can’t squeeze blood from a stone so why not take a 5% cut across the board. If you don’t there will be more job losses and you will not be getting a raise for years to come.
    All of the bullying and posturing is just that. It’s a pity the Mayor has no balls, because if he did he would have stood up to all of these unions years ago. So it’s all the Mayor’s and the greedy unions fault for these impasses.

  17. Roger. It is nice to see you came out of your shell, but as you can see you can’t get a point across here. Here is how you get your point across. First and foremost inform everyone that you are a CHIEF of the YFD. Now walk over and smack George and Augie in the face and inform them that they are CHIEF,S WHO ALSO REPRESENT THE UFOA. Than the three of you march over to City Hall right this minute and tell the Mayor that you are Three out of the four most senior Chief’s in the YFD and his and the administrative plan of our commissioner is ludicrious. When your done their go to the 3 o’clock Council meeting and do the same in front of the whole City. I think it would be amazing,Tell everyone how you all really feel about the YFD administration, I’ve heard you all say it. Results will come and you will feel better about yourself than a couple of us FF saying nice article Chief Vitola.

  18. Lets try to be rational…firefighters deserve our
    respect..many of them were the first reponders on
    9/11…they risk their lives to save others and
    they no doubt suffer the health consequences of being
    exposed to toxins while fighting fires..and no one wants to deny a firefighter a pension…that’s the deal
    they work their 20 years or more and are entitled to
    a pension..but the pension they are entitled to should
    be fairly computed..the problem is that because of
    the union’s ability to get special treatment from
    mayor’s and other elected officials, the way the
    pensions are computed are hardly fair..because its
    not based on the firefighters is based on
    a formula that allows the salary to be enhanced by
    overtime in the last 3 years…now if the average salary over the entire career including overtime were
    the basis for the formula i doubt anyone would complain
    of course if that were the way pensions were determined
    the lower earlier years would actually bring down the
    average even with the overtime..but the problem is that
    pensions are “padded” and they appear to be padded
    with some overtime is not distributed
    to everyone..just to those about to retire..this allows
    a firefighter to make substantially more than his base
    in the last 3 years…and then the formula is applied
    to that number…its one of the reasons that the state
    has 130 billion in unfunded pension costs..for those
    already retired there is little anyone can do..but
    for all those coming after..the pension formula has
    to be modified so that in no case can a firefighter
    make more in retirement than his highest base salary if 85,000 is his highest base thats the most
    he can make in can’t possibly argue
    that making 130-150 a year can be justified simply
    because some politician agreed to deal in order
    to get union support..because the elected official
    is supposed to represent all the people who elected
    him not just the unions who gave him poliitcal support.
    and the pension formula as the AG said is totally out
    of wack with any notion of fairness to those paying the

  19. As much respect I have for many of the firefighters who serve our city, I have as much distain for those firefighters who come on here and cuse and bash others for simply voicing an opposing opinion. Better to respond professionally with tact and respect for the other persons opinion rather than to do what you are doing.

  20. First off, I strongly believe that the Citizens of Yonkers, to a person, all agree that the members of YFD are among the best trained and dedicated firefighters in the country. We know that when the alarm sounds, they are ready to help all of us. That has never been in question. Today, with Station 8 and Engine 308 now closed, protectin in our city has been again significantly reduced to dangerous levels. We all don’t want that (The Firefighters and the Citizens). Firefighters just don’t simply sit on their butts when not fighting fires or responding to emergency calls. Fire Building Inspections/Hydrant Inspections, Continued Training, and other works continues daily. So, I ask others on this forum to knock it off with the comments that all they do is sit on their butts. On the other side of the coin, let’s all be realistic. The Firemen in YFD are humans and will, if given the opportunity, will take advantage of any situation that would better them individually for the future. Pension Padding is a common practice across many of the unions in our city, not just YFD. This is the contract that they have negotiated and they are taking advantage of what has been presented to them. If the contract clearly allows for one to retire based on their last years salary, of course, one will make sure that they are the ones choosen to work as much overtime as possible (Graveyard Shifts, etc). As far as being away from their families while working allot of overtime, well that is the choice of the YFD Member, so if you want to work it, don’t complain. Shame on the city for allowing this “benefit perk” to be given to them in the first place. Part of the city’s annual budget is the amount of money that they have to pay into the Retirement Pension. If this amount increases each year, then the city has to factor this in. This perk should NEVER have been allowed in the first place. Maybe its time for the city to ELLMINIATE this benefit NOW. However, it is too late for this to help reduce the budget. Yonkers you got yourself into this mess. Also, if you read a number of the blogs on here, you hear fireman beating up Teachers, Policeman and DPW Workers. Real nice seeing fighting among the different departments withn our city. Some also have come on here and talked about Priviatization of City Services as being a possible solution. Well, we are now seeing many cities in our country going to that solution. Others have talked about going to a County Government run service, especially as it relates to the Fire Department, in order to make a more even distribution of resources throughout the county. Could be a good idea. Then some have talked about the millions of federal grant funding having been given to the YFD for new fire apparatus and specialized trucks for the YFD Special Operations Division. Now people seeing some cities in our country getting Federal Grant Funding just to hire on and keep Firefighters in their cities rather than having to lay them off. Well, maybe a good chunk of the Federal Grant Funding used by Mr. Pagano and Mr. Fiztpatrick should have been moved to help off set some of the budget deficits that they now face rather than puchasing the equipment/apparatus that could have been put off for now. Some also say that having certain aspects of the YFD being run by the county (such as the special operations division) would allow for better appropriation of resources and not having it all placed into Yonkers, thus again, the Federal Grant Funding could be used like some cities are using it today, in order to keep its Fire Departments Open. I’d bet if everyone looked at it today, some would say that Yonkers would have been better off taking a good portion of the Federal Grant Funding used to purchase the 4 new pieces of Fire Apparatus just received as well as allot of the Special Operations Apparatus/Equipment appropriated via these Federal Grants, to help keep the Fire Companies Closed and Fire Fighters who have lost their jobs on the job, they would do just that. Bottom Line is this. Yonkers City Management, from the Mayor and City Councilmen to the City Controller need to face allot of the blame. Also, Commissioner Pagano and Chief Fitzpatrick right down to the YFD Union Leaders also have to face allot of the blame as well. Not an easy fix at all, but people in our city now need to start working together rather than working against each other to start to get our city slowly out of this mess.

  21. you can feel the disgust with the unions growing in the City every day. It is the Dark Side of the Force growing. Union greed and arrogence in the midst of a recession guarantees the hate will build through the summer.
    And as was stated above, pensions ARE paid for by the Citizens of Yonkers. It is called TAXES. Bigger fatter porkier pensions – MORE TAXES.
    I supposed the unions think money grows on trees in Albany to fund the state retirement systems?

  22. I have nothing against the fire people- or the cops for that matter. But I know some people who work for the city. They don’t belong to a union. They don’t get breaks, don’t get to go out for lunch and they work regular overtime they don’t paid for. They don’t get paid 100,000 a year, either. Yeah, they are lucky to have a job, I get that. But the union guys get paid much more, work shorter hours, get paid for overtime and have way better benefits. I don’t get why they are complaining. I really don’t.

  23. Pay me 100K a year to sit on my ass and you can call me to cut you out of a car.
    The problem with you jerk-offs is you have a great gig and still want to bitch. Do your f–ing job and shut the F– up.
    You work one and a half days a week then work as scabs and you want to scream union.
    All you assholes can be replaced with real workers who would do your job at half price.

  24. to Mr. Vitolo:
    with all respect to your hard work: who the fuck do you think pays for those pensions based on overtime?
    the Tooth Fairy?

  25. Congradulations. Hugh fox. May you have many years of health and happiness in your retirement. Thanks the men of Local 628.

  26. Crapper maybe you can teach carpenter to spell. Oh wait, your probably a useless BOE hanger-on. Nevermind.
    Can’t wait to see your books though!!!!

  27. Hey carpenter (so you say), the next time someone in your family needs to call 911 I want you to jump in your car and race over there with your sawz-all and level and put the fire out. Or if you know someone who is in a car accident and needs extrication you can zip over there with your tape measurer and chop saw and help them get out. Don’t embarrass the hard working construction personnel of our fine state by associating yourself with them. You are a loser pal. “I’m in construction” yeah right duchebag!

  28. Hey jackass – cut your I’m a hero crap. Your so under appreciated then quit. Your all a bunch of lazy greedy bastards who should be shown the door.
    You can be replaced in a heart beat.
    I’m in construction and I can gurantee you that more of us have died in our “line of duty” than you.

  29. And how come your so called proof is published by an anonymous author? Why wouldn’t they put their name to their article? Just another liberal rag like the Journal Snooze.

  30. Still using the Yonkers Public School System computer you piece of human trash? Your so called proof is a joke! A farmer from Wisconsin has a more dangerous job than a NYC/Yonkers cop? The life expectancy of a cop/firefighter is the same as a normal citizens? How many people in your line of work have died or been killed in the line of duty! You are a liberal piece of dirt who would never have the balls to do what we do! Go crawl back under your rock and count the days until your kind are drummed out of office! You should thank God everyday that there are men and women like us who have answered the call to protect and serve assholes such as yourself! Keep hiding behind the Yonkers Public School computer you useless piece of shit!

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