Tag Archives: Pension

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.