That accusation was leveled in court Wednesday by Matthew McGowan, an attorney for the city’s retired firefighters. He called Flanders’ plan to slash his clients’ pensions “an eleventh-hour proposal” that they did not have enough time to review.
Central Falls’ attorney acknowledged separately how little time passed from the start of talks between the two sides and Monday’s bankruptcy filing.
Flanders was appointed in February, but he didn’t open negotiations with Council 94 until May 15; with the police and fire unions until July 1; and with retirees until July 5, less than a month before the bankruptcy filing, according to court documents filed this week by the attorney, Theodore Orson.
Flanders defended his handling of the situation on Wednesday, saying he waited three months to start negotiations because it took that long to figure out how much Central Falls needed in concessions to stave off bankruptcy.
“First we had to come up with an idea of what we were asking for,” he told WPRI.com. “It took a while to come up with that.”
But by the time talks began in earnest, Central Falls was already facing a severe cash crunch that was projected to leave the city unable to pay its bills this month, Flanders said. Without concessions or a bailout from the state, he said he was forced to file for Chapter 9 this week.
In effect, he said, the receiver’s office got “squeezed” between the time it took to get a handle on the problem once Flanders took office and the time when Central Falls’ cash was set to run short. Flanders’ predecessor as receiver, Mark Pfeiffer, was in charge of the city from July 2010 through last February.
McGowan took a different view in court. He told the judge it was incorrect to say there were “negotiations” between the receiver and the retirees, because they were presented with a proposal and told to take it or leave it, then weren’t given enough time to vet it before the bankruptcy filing.
McGowan suggested Flanders’ failure to formally negotiate with the retirees before filing for Chapter 9 could be a reason for the judge to dismiss the case and throw it out of court.
(photo: Associated Press/Stew Milne)