Authority, union relationship has another problem
For five years, the Municipal Authority of New Kensington paid retirement benefits to a former supervisor using union pension funds and continued the practice even after auditors informed the board of the mistake, according to authority documents and a union attorney.
The transfers are raising concerns within Local 220 of the Utility Workers Union of America, which represents 23 workers with the authority that provides water service to residents of New Kensington, Arnold, Lower Burrell, Upper Burrell, Allegheny Township, Washington Township and parts of Plum.
Robert Eberle of Pittsburgh, who represents the local, said the handling of pension money is a “warning sign” of deeper problems that may exist within the union pension fund.
“It may be just a mistake, just some oversight, but certainly the length of time it took, even after the mistakes were uncovered, weren't rectified even after they were uncovered,” Eberle said.
Authority attorney David Regoli conceded mistakes were made but said the union's pension fund has been made whole.
“I don't think they lost a penny,” Regoli said.
The union has been working without a contract since 2008. For the past five years, negotiations have stalled. Regoli believes the pension dispute surfaced because of the union's frustration with the contract talks.
“Are they related? One hundred percent,” Regoli said.
Local President Ron Balla questions whether the interest payments are accurate.
“How were they calculated?” Balla asked. “What measures have been taken to make sure it doesn't happen again? How did it happen? We still don't know who was responsible.”
The two sides are scheduled to meet on Nov. 17 to discuss the problems, Balla said.
Even though the authority has returned the money with interest, Eberle said the union doesn't know how much money it may have lost through investment income.
“That's a concern,” he added. “That's been brought to the attention of the authority and the Bank of New York Mellon.” The bank is the trustee for the non-union pension fund.
Authority General Manager James Matta said there is no paperwork documenting the transfer.
“There are no records of pension payments in the minutes of the board,” Matta wrote on April 9 to Balla.
The authority transferred $13,410 from the union's pension fund on April 2, 2009. Another $53,044.59 was transferred this March.
In an Oct. 10 letter to the Bank of New York Mellon, Eberle posed the questions:
• How did the deposits end up in the wrong pension plan?
• Why did it take five years for the money to be replaced?
• Has the bank taken steps to ensure that similar problems do not occur?
• How was the potential loss of investment income determined?
• Why hasn't the bank asked for an independent audit?
“The only plausible explanation that the union can reach for the dismissive attitude they have received to date is that someone wants to obscure some wrongdoing,” Eberle wrote. “The more entities responsible for this plan hide behind a facade of institutional arrogance the more the union and its members come to believe that there really is something improper that is being hidden from view.”
Eberle said the bank officials told him that it has “no legal obligation to talk to you.”
Regoli said the authority maintains two pension funds that have the same name. One holds union pension funds; the other management. Both plans are underfunded, but the Public Employees Retirement Commission does not consider either one distressed.
Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police gather in Ligonier for Perryopolis officer’s funeral
- Youngwood fire department reaches out to homeless family
- Plenty of ‘pain’ to share, as Westmoreland County budget OK’d with $8M in cuts
- Arbitration decides Westmoreland court workers’ pact
- 11 Westmoreland inmates accused of setting fire put in solitary confinement
- Home of LeNature’s exec up for sale
- Hempfield leaders kill zoning request for townhomes
- Mt. Pleasant man charged with unlawful restraint
- Demolition project at Oliver’s Pourhouse in Greensburg moves ahead
- Unity name excised from Latrobe parks, recreation
- Catholic Diocese of Greensburg bestows $30K to combat poverty