Barbara Miller-Williams: Cop Lawmaker.

11 Mar

The state pension system is hopelessly broken, and I don’t see how there’s a path to fixing it. Under this scheme, state workers can pad their state-tax-free state pensions by working ungodly and insane amounts of overtime during their last several years before retirement so that their lifetime pension payout is as large as humanly possible.

Take Barbara Miller-Williams.

The chairwoman of the Erie County Legislature is also a Buffalo Police Officer, and at age 60 she’s fast approaching retirement. That means that in 2006, she only racked up $384 in overtime earnings – the last year it didn’t count towards her pension calculation.

In 2007, however, that hopped to $7,600 just in overtime. In 2008, it skyrocketed to $25,000 in OT. In 2009, she doubled that by racking up an incredible $51,000 just in overtime, on top of her $60,000+ salary.

Jim Heaney FOILS Barbara Miller-Williams’ police payroll information and discovers that the chairwoman of the anachronistic and useless county legislature is simultaneously legislating and working near-60-hour weeks as a police officer.

This gaming of the system – which is universally done and for which Barbara Miller-Williams is not unique – helps boost her lifetime pension by about $14,000 per year. She will receive $44,000 per year from her state pension and pay no state income tax on that sum.

There’s a simple fix. Merely calculate one’s pension based on the earnings average throughout their career. But who’s got the political will to make that change? An Albany legislator who is waiting on a state pension? An Albany pol who relies on union support and money for re-election? Yeah, not so much.

Of course, Barbara Miller-Williams is also the chairwoman of the Erie County Legislature. Last year, she was a backbencher while working her regular police job plus an average of 19 police OT hours per week. Unless she never went to sleep during 2009, I’m amazed at how she could have served her constituents in the legislature, such as that is.

At least she underscores Kevin Hardwick’s point that being in the leg is a part-time gig.

But Miller-Williams’ police job prohibits her from working more than 20 hours at any other job. Her predecessor as chairwoman, Lynn Marinelli, says she worked 40 – 60 hour weeks when she was chair. Maria Whyte says the difference between the two is palpable; Miller-Williams is hard to find.

John Mills gives Jim Heaney a quote that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. It reads like, and was probably intended to be, a compliment. But honestly, it doesn’t get more backhandedly insulting than this:

“I attend more committee meetings than most people, and she’s there,” said the Orchard Park Republican. “I thought she’d have a longer learning curve, but she’s a much brighter person than I think a lot of people give her credit for.”

Shorter John Mills: “I thought she was an total idiot. I found out that “total” was too strong.”

If you want to talk about status quo, this pension largesse is among the biggest budgetary drags on taxing entities throughout the state. If you want to talk about agendas, the biggest agenda in this state has to do with public money and how to amass it.

I don’t begrudge Barbara Miller-Williams gaming the system to squeeze every penny out of it that she can.

But the system really needs to be changed.

16 Responses to “Barbara Miller-Williams: Cop Lawmaker.”

  1. Eisenbart March 11, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    You forgot the part where when she retires she takes her pension to another community down south.

  2. lefty March 11, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    While you may not be able to change the pension structure…it could be possible to tax the hell out of it. Specifically those who live out of state.

  3. Brian Castner March 11, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    I begrudge her gaming the system – don’t you suspect there is more to it? As you point out, unless she doesn’t sleep, she can’t do both jobs. I don’t think either of us see BMW as a particuarly motivated or dedicated public servant. So how long til we find out that she was “clocked in” at two places at the same time?

  4. pauldub March 11, 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    Federal Civil Service retirement is determined by the average of your high three base pay. No overtime. Bizarre as this sounds, perhaps the state could take a cue from the Feds..

  5. tooslowsue March 11, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    Mrs. Miller-Williams will retire soon and when she does, she and her pension will be enriching the state of Georgia when she has invested in several condos. I don’t blame Miller-Williams, I blame Chris Collins and Bryon Brown; that is how they ‘made’ her. That woman has no business being a legislator, let alone chairwoman. All of her constituents have been complaining about her lack of representing them since way back when she was a city councilmember. Steve Pigeon,Chris Collins, Byron Brown and company have created a Frankenstein monster-Buffalo style!

  6. Greg March 12, 2010 at 8:27 am #

    I begrudge her too. There is no fucking way she really worked all that overtime.

  7. Mark March 12, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    Make that inflation adjusted average salary and maybe we can talk. Not sure whether or to what extent all of these people get a COLA.

  8. Ethan March 12, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    I don’t begrudge Barbara Miller-Williams gaming the system to squeeze every penny out of it that she can.

    You don’t?  Why not?  Would you do likewise in her position?  I think the entire premise of this post is exactly that you begrudge it.  I know I sure do.

    • Alan Bedenko March 12, 2010 at 11:23 am #

      She’s a veteran cop who is (a) following the rules; and (b) doing precisely what every other veteran cop with her seniority & scheduled retirement would do. To her mind, she’d be an idiot _not_ to max out her OT so as to pad her pension.

      I don’t agree with it or think it’s right. But I understand the rationale behind it.

  9. Christopher Smith March 12, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    I like the word begrudge.

  10. Kevin J. March 12, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Oh, the stories of incommunicado I could tell …

  11. Mike Rals March 13, 2010 at 1:50 am #

    I read the post waiting for the, “I’m not mad at her she’s just getting paid,” statement and sure enough you wrote that you don’t begrudge her for it. How do you not begrudge her? The system is a joke but that doesn’t mean that the people who participate in this are not total gluttons. Being a glutton is not good. She was just “gaming the system” though right? Oh man, it’s cool then. Just a little gaming the system that’s all. I thought it was disgusting, but you right though it’s not disgusting.  

    I can’t really be mad though because she will not collect 44k per year for very long. The state is going to default on its debt in the next couple of years and be forced to break a lot of promises.

    • Alan Bedenko March 13, 2010 at 7:09 am #

      Thanks for missing my point and not reading any earlier comments.

  12. Peter A Reese March 13, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    Gee, it seems like only yesterday (2007) when BMW was the darling of the ECDC, annointed as the designated person to take out the evil George Holt. How could she have gone so wrong so quickly?

  13. Peter A Reese March 14, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    Why do you think Alan is so afraid of cops? Does he have something to hide? Or was he frightened by a cop when he was a child?


  1. PolitiFAIL Tourney 2010, Walter vs. Miller-Williams | - March 23, 2010

    […] Miller-Williams must have been quite overworked last year, as she maximizes her overtime so as to inflate her lifetime state-tax-free pension. As the Chairwoman of the legislature, she gets a nice little stipend, Lynn Marinelli’s […]

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