At the debate for the Democratic candidates in August, Jerry Flynn, Executive Director of the New England Police Benevolent Association, asked the candidates if they would take their pension and the sheriff’s salary if they are elected. Prior to this exchange below, candidate Paul Russell said that he would do the job for free as he gets a pension from the DEA.
Earlier in the day Attorney Edward O’Reilly responded to a Facebook posting asking/seeking questions to ask the candidates. He posted a version of Jerry’s question which prompted quite the discussion during the debate.
JERRY ROBITO: “I have a good retirement. I work part time security for the IRS. I really don’t need the job but I feel I can make a difference and come back. After 34 years, I guess I still have a passion for it. My retirement would freeze. I have no financial motive; there are some people here that would gain financially. I would go back to my old pension.”
MICHAEL MARKS: “I happened to see that question this morning on your Facebook page. What I did today was, I talked to our retirement guru who tells me that if I’m fortunate enough to win the election I could retire the day after the election, and then I could collect my pension as well as collect a full salary for the Essex County Sheriff’s Department. There have been a lot of talk about pledges, I’m going to make a pledge that I will continue to work for the Sheriff’s department. I will not retire. I will transfer over directly from superintendent to Sheriff and take the raise that comes with it.”
CHIEF COPPINGER: “I’m sure Eddie is waiting for my answer on this one. I know it’s been on Facebook before. But, I’m going to give you an honest answer. I think it’s an unfair comparison. I have worked in public service for the police department for over three decades. I’ve put 110% into every day that I’ve worked. I have paid into that pension system over the years and when I do retire it will be a job that’s in my past and that is what a pension is for. It would provide a pension to me for the years of service that I paid in. I’m running not just to get elected but to do a job. To do a job that I’m going to give another 110% to every single day, because, it’s a tough job. It’s going to be a seven day a week job to get the Sheriff’s office back on track to where it should be. I’m going to answer your question (he said looking at Attorney O’Reilly) with a question. Just a comparison to give you something to think about. If someone leaves the United States Marine Corps after putting in 30 years of service to our military, and when they come back they go to work for the United States Post Office, are you going to tell them they can’t take a second salary? That’s my position. I would take my pension, and yes I would take the salary, because I think in order to do that job, it’s going to take many hours and I think I deserve that in my career.”
ED O’REILLY: “I take a very small stipend for my service of over 13 years to help pay for the health insurance. I would forgo that. It’s about $300 a month. But, to go back to Chief Coppinger’s statement. This is a loophole in the pension system that Chief Coppinger is going to take advantage of. And just let me say why.”
TOM DUGGAN: “Were you the one that posted this on my Facebook page?”
O’REILLY: Yes, I asked to have this as a question, because this is unfair. It’s really important for all the people that are out there, that worked for the state to get a pension, they can only make about $17,000 a year and after that, they have to start paying some money back into the system. This loophole was made for elected officials, by elected officials, so that they can … unlike anyone else in the pension system … so they can get a full pension and a full salary. I understand what the chief is saying, but that’s comparing apples and oranges. Anyone else in the system cannot do that. So Chief Coppinger would be making nearly $300,000 a year for a $150,000 job. And I find that to be unacceptable, not necessarily because of him, but the loophole in the law.”
COPPINGER: “If you think about this, public officials from New Hampshire can come down and work in this job. Someone can retire from GE and come in and work in this job. Someone can come in from anywhere in the private sector, they have earned their pension , they have put their time and their money in. I’ve paid over 39 years into the pension system, hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve worked very hard to get where I am. My resume and my qualifications reflect that. I’ve earned my pension and I’m proud of that. I’m not going to step aside from that. I’m looking to do a job. I think I have the qualifications. I think I am the best candidate to do the job. I will leave it up to the voters. I talked about transparency. I don’t have a problem with talking about this in public. But when you are putting this out there and sliding in the underbelly of Facebook, that’s wrong. (looking at O’Reilly). I’m actually glad it’s come out. But, I put it out there. I put my resume out there; I put my ideas on the table and let the voters decide. That’s where I stand.”
ROBITO: “I grew up in Lawrence. If the chief is doing such a great job in Lynn, which I am sure he is, if I lived in Lynn and he chose to give up the job of chief of police I’d be bull. I mean, you are here to serve and protect us. Now you want to move on, so you can make more money? Where is your heart and your loyalties?”
COPPINGER: “Jerry, as I said before, I’m not running to get elected. I’m running to do a job. My resume and qualifications will show you that had great successes with our programs in Lynn. Prevention, intervention, rehabilitation and treatment. We are doing a good job. Crime is down 10% over the last five years. It’s down 5% this year alone. That record reflects what the Lynn Police Department is doing under my leadership. I want to take my successes and take them county wide to help other people. We’ve had a lot of discussion in this forum here tonight about stuff internally in the jail. And that’s good because you have to have that. But we are also forgetting about the 750,000 citizens in this county who are becoming victims of crime, and want to feel safe and secure in their homes. Those are the people I represent. Those are the people. I know what they need and what they want based on my 33 years of law enforcement experience.”
O’REILLY: “First, the crime has gone down everywhere. From my experience, people who want drugs are still going to … one of the major places, is Lynn. It’s still a problem. One of the programs I support is the Gloucester Angels program and one of the places I want to expand it is Lynn. We need to take innovative approaches because from what I can see, there hasn’t been a whole lot of success in dealing with the drug problem in Lynn.”
COPPINGER: “Eddie, you are a defense attorney. In fact, I think your specialty is OUI’s (drunk driving) cases. We can sling the mud back and forth Ed. First of all, I’m glad we are doing it in public, versus as I said before, in the underbelly of Facebook page as you have done in the past. Crime in Lynn is down. Lynn is a better place. Take a ride downtown Lynn and see what’s going on. There are restaurants opening, there are shows at city hall. People are moving back into Lynn. Good things are happening in Lynn. We have a behavioral housing unit in Lynn. You’ve mentioned the Gloucester Angels program since day one and you always say you are the only one that supports treatment and rehabilitation. I have yet to hear anyone on this stage speak against treatment and rehabilitation. You promote the Angel program, it’s a good program, I’m not going to deny that. It works for Gloucester, that’s good. But there are a lot of other programs throughout the county including what we have in Lynn. We have 3 people, civilians we hired, two clinicians trained in substance abuse and mental illness, and one case worker. They work inside our department with our officers and they are out in the street every day. They are making improvements. This epidemic is everywhere throughout the commonwealth and the entire eastern seaboard. I will stand on the merits of the Lynn Police Department, we are doing one hell of a job and we will continue to do that despite what happens in the Sheriff’s race.”
To view the video of this debate (SEE FULL VIDEO HERE)