Is City Council Prez Anna Verna Retiring?
DROP, the city’s deferred retirement option plan, has been undisputedly exposed as a scam by independent analysis. The only surprise in the report from Boston College researchers is how eye-popping of a siphon DROP has been on an already strapped city pension fund. The study found that over the last 10 years $258 million was taken out of the fund in a free-money grab by politicians and city employees. There are other studies that show the amount of money taken could be much higher.
In an era of economic uncertainty, when every penny counts, the study of the DROP program was the best $80,000 that the city ever spent. Spend a little to save a lot. It makes you wonder why a study wasn’t commissioned before now.
The study gave Mayor Michael Nutter the political cover he needed to call for an end to the DROP program. The Mayor should be commended for his willingness to take on the unions and Philadelphia’s political machine.
But who could possibly challenge the Mayor, armed with the report, in his quest to drop an abused and unnecessary perk at this time of economic crisis?
The naive might think no one could. But this is Philadelphia, where greed has created a deep and ugly underground river of corruption that runs with a stubborn current under all city policy. It never stops running because of little obstacles like an independent report; it just changes course a little.[SIGNUP]
That is why I am not surprised at all to learn that City Council President Anna Verna is refusing to call council members back from vacation to deal with the DROP dilemma.
It should be pointed out that Verna is scheduled to get a $584,778 DROP payment in January 2012, which brings us to the boondoggle part of DROP.
The program was set up with the claim of good intentions. It allowed city workers to announce their retirement date four years ahead and start banking their pension, along with 4.5% interest, over the last four years of their employment. It was supposed to help the city plan its workforce better and give the little guy a chance to earn a retirement nest egg, but the big guys found a loophole to abuse the system. This allowed politicians to retire for one day and collect a large sum of money from DROP, and then unretire, allowing them to tap into the system again. Elected officials usually take the “retirement for a day” right after re-election but before they are sworn in.
Does the January 2012 DROP payment for Anna Verna make some sense now? Does anyone believe that she is really retiring?
Aside from Verna, we can expect one-day retirements from Majority Leader Marian B. Tasco, Minority Whip Frank Rizzo, Frank DiCicco, Jack Kelly, and Donna Reed Miller.
Give Frank DiCicco credit for announcing that he will donate his $392,195 DROP payment back to the city if he runs for re-election. Give him even more credit for calling for a special legislative session on council to deal with the report and the Mayor’s request to drop DROP.
Anna Verna’s response to DiCicco came in the form of a news release sent from wherever Verna is vacationing. It stated that the issue was much too important to rush and that council will take up DROP next month when everyone gets back to work.
If the issue is really that important shouldn’t council rush back to deal with it?
Let me translate Verna’s news release for those of you who don’t speak Philadelphia politician. The news release is like a bell calling the pigs to the trough. Loosely translated it says, “C’mon boys, get while the gettin’s good.” Verna is alerting all city workers and politicians that they have a month to get in on the DROP boondoggle before it is closed up forever.
The Daily News reports that as of yesterday afternoon 40 workers had submitted DROP applications. That number is reported as “unusually high.” Those workers got the message from Verna. You can expect hundreds to enroll in DROP over the next month. And since council will undoubtedly grandfather those who are already enrolled, those new DROP participants will cost the city for the next four years.
Over the last 10 years, DROP has cost the City of Philadelphia and its taxpayers $2.15 million dollars a month on average. That amount goes up every year with inflation, and with the rush to enroll in DROP before it goes away, it is reasonable to estimate that Anna Verna’s stall will cost the city a minimum of $100,000 a day.
We’ll be paying the price for Verna’s stall until 2014.
Anna, we can’t afford your vacation. Come back now.
Somehow I doubt she will. The river runs deep and strong.