Veteran Cop Challenges Labor Unions to Own Responsibility
Mt. Olive Police Sgt. Michael F. Pocquat [Cliffview Pilot]
By Jerry DeMarco | Publisher/Editor CLIFFVIEWPILOT.com
December 15, 2010
Ever since he stood up to Chris Christie, demanding that he restore money the governor’s predecessors “raided” from the state police and firefighters pension fund, Mount Olive Police Sgt. Mike Pocquat has received emails, letters, calls and texts from just about everyone connected with law enforcement and firefighting in New Jersey — except the labor unions. Now he’s calling them out.
By itself, his jaw-dropping letter, published by the weekly Mount Olive Chronicle, “does little to remedy the current situation we find ourselves in,” Poquat wrote to the state FOP, PBA, FMBA, and PFANJ, with copies to their presidents and representatives. “Although [it] explains how we got to where we are, I am at a loss to answer what is being done without a response from you.”
The mission of these organizations is to improve the standard of living and working conditions for its members, Poquat noted.
And “although we may be in different organizations,” he wrote, “we have common ground….Can we truly afford to just sit back and hope for the best? Hope that somehow the Governor will have an enlightened moment where he reverses course and begins re-funding the money stolen from us?"
Simply put: What steps are the State FOP, PBA, FMBA, and PFANJ taking to “protect those who protect others”? he asks.
“Why have the state [organizations] not mounted an aggressive, yet balanced, campaign to defend us in the face of the Governor’s concerted effort to malign us, distort the truth and paint us as greedy villains bankrupting the state?”
In his first letter, Pocquat carefully laid out how a pension fund that had topped out at $100 billion when Christine Todd Whitman became governor ended up underfunded.
Long before Pocquat joined Mount Olive’s finest, the state began requiring police officers and firefighters to contribute 8.5 percent of their salaries into a ‘secure’ pension fund, “with the promise that the money would be there when [we] retired, the 22-year veteran said.
Municipalities originally were mandated to match. But Whitman, finding a fund large enough to provide security for the families of public servants “who risked their lives every day serving and protecting the citizens of New Jersey,” began drawing down from it “indiscriminately” to pay for tax cuts and to balance the state budget, which gave “the false appearance that all was fiscally sound under her watch,” Pocquat wrote in his open letter to Christie.
Whitman then signed a law that allowed municipalities to duck the match. Before long, they owed $2 billion.
“The state gambled for years, relying heavily on the returns from the stock market to cover the missing funds,” wrote Pocquat, who holds a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Lycoming College in Pennsylvania. In the process, he said, “the public was lulled into a sense of false financial security.”
When the bill finally came due, he wrote, police and firefighters were handy scapegoats. And now Christie, after inheriting a fiscal crisis, “has again found the same victim: Your public employees.”
“As of 2009, the pension fund should have assets of $112 billion to meet its obligations, yet it is currently sitting at $66 billion,” Pocquat wrote. “It is the largest unfunded liability in the country.”
In his letter to the union reps, Pocqaut says that Christie “has indicated he has no intention of re-funding that money stolen from us by his predecessors.”
Although lawsuits have been filed to preserve benefits at their current levels, Pocquat demands to know “what is being done to see that the pension fund itself is brought back to health?
“We can block every proposed reduction in our benefits, but if the money is not paid back into the fund, financial collapse is foreseeable,” he added. “Winning on the proposed benefit reductions will have meant nothing when there no longer is a viable fund to pay basic retirement costs.”
Pocquat’s demands about what his representatives are doing to protect him and his public safety brothers and sisters are concise, pointed, direct:
“Have we sought legal council on the current state of our pension fund? If not, why? If consulted, what is legal council’s opinion?
“Have we filed litigation to recoup the funds stolen from us based on the unconstitutional or unlawful raiding of our pension fund? If not, why?”
Pocquat also asks, point blank, whether the state of New Jersey is required to “pay back the 40 billion dollars stolen from us, and if so, are they now in violation” of that mandate?
He also want to know whether an independent auditing firm will be brought in to examine the state‘s police and firefighters‘ pension fund records.
“Wouldn‘t this be a prudent step to take in providing an absolute assessment of the fund and its status?” he asks.
He also wants requests for public information filed of all pension funds records dating back to the Florio Administration “to begin tracking where this stolen money went? Who specifically withdrew it, and where was it subsequently deposited?”
Most important, Pocquat said, the executive boards of the various labor organizations should meet, to “come up with an agreed-upon game plan on how best to proceed. Wouldn’t it make sense to build an alliance to tackle such a serious issue?”
The assertive sergeant is writing follow-up letters to local union chapters to help unite everyone with a direct stake in the outcome.
However, he said, it’s going to take leadership from the state unions to put an end to the madness.
“Thousands of officers and fireman are faced with an uncertain future as to the solvency of the entire fund, and they are looking for answers and guidance, Pocquat wrote. “Having entrusted you with the positions you now hold, we are looking to you for leadership, information, and responsiveness.
“We are looking to you to set the record straight, so that those who have entrusted you with your office can feel confident that their voices and concerns are being heard, and that the State FOP, PBA, FMBA, and PFANJ continue to have all of our best interests at heart.”
Read the Original Article HERE