Embattled Coventry fire chief’s pension being examined

December 9th, 2014 at 6:16 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Rhode Island General Treasurer’s office and a state police detective are currently reviewing pension records of embattled Coventry Fire District Chief Paul Labbadia, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

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Jury trial in RI pension lawsuit to start April 20

December 2nd, 2014 at 1:27 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) – The judge handling a union-backed challenge to Rhode Island’s 2011 pension overhaul on Tuesday granted a request by the state’s lawyers for a jury trial in the suit, and set an April 20 date for it to start.

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RI pension law still in legal jeopardy, 3 years later

November 18th, 2014 at 12:01 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Three years ago today, Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed what remains the most sweeping overhaul of a state pension system ever seen in the U.S., saving taxpayers billions but angering many government workers and retirees in the process.

Three years later Chafee is set to leave office after a single term, to be succeeded by the architect of the pension overhaul, General Treasurer and Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo. But with a suit challenging the law still in pretrial limbo, there is growing momentum in favor of reaching a deal to resolve the issue once and for all.

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Chafee hails Moody’s upgrade on Rhode Island’s finances

October 6th, 2014 at 5:36 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island got a positive report card about its finances on Monday from Moody’s Investors Service, with the Wall Street rating agency praising local leaders for taking steps they said have improved state government’s fiscal health.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee hailed the news in a statement. “I am pleased that Moody’s is acknowledging our strong fiscal management and my leadership to ensure that we are moving in the right direction through investments in education, infrastructure and workforce development,” he told

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Providence’s troubled city pension fund, in three charts

October 1st, 2014 at 3:06 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The sizable shortfall in Providence’s pension system for retired city workers has become a major topic of discussion in this year’s race for mayor, with facts and figures flying fast and furious.

To help you sort out facts from fiction, here are three charts that give an overview of the city pension fund’s finances over the last two decades under three mayors: Buddy Cianci (1991-2002), David Cicilline (2003-2011) and Angel Taveras (2011-present). The numbers come from the annual city audit.

First off, here’s a look at what’s called the “unfunded liability” in the pension fund – the official shortfall between how much the city has socked away and how much it would need to pay out promised benefits in full, as reported by the city’s actuary. For a variety of reasons, the shortfall grew from $137 million in 1991 to $759 million in 2012. (The latest audit isn’t out yet, but the shortfall rose to $832 million in 2013.)

Providence unfunded pension liability 1991 2012


Cianci was right: his final budget funded pensions at 80%

September 30th, 2014 at 9:10 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

I owe Buddy Cianci a correction.

Numbers were flying fast and furious during Tuesday evening’s Providence mayoral debate, and I got mixed up during the section on pensions when Cianci was talking in calendar years as I was looking at city audits that are in fiscal years.

It happened when Cianci said the city “finally got up to 80% funded in 2002,” meaning that the city made 80% of its annual required contribution (ARC) to the pension fund that year. Knowing the numbers somewhat (and recalling that Cianci incorrectly said on a recent Newsmakers that he made 100% contributions in his final years), I said the city’s contribution was actually around 60% that year.

Cianci then clarified that the final budget he put together before his September 2002 resignation was for the fiscal year that ran from July 1, 2002, to June 30, 2003. And indeed, the city audit shows Providence did make 80.25% of its annual required contribution to the pension fund in the 2002-03 fiscal year, which is the budget Cianci was putting together in the spring of 2002.

(To compound things, as I tried to separate calendar from fiscal years on the fly I misread the 2002 and 2003 numbers when I looked down at the pension page from the city audit, and incorrectly said he only made a 60.6% contribution in 2002 and a 64.18% contribution in 2003; that was in fiscal 2001 and fiscal 2002.)

On this point Cianci was right, and I was wrong: the Cianci administration did indeed increase Providence’s annual required contribution (ARC) to the pension fund from 60.6% in the 2000-01 fiscal year to 64.18% in the 2001-02 fiscal year and 80.25% in the 2002-03 fiscal year, his final budget.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

• Related: Providence’s troubled city pension fund, in four charts (Oct. 1)

Ted Nesi ( ) covers politics and the economy for and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

Judge: RI cities, towns must join pension lawsuit

August 14th, 2014 at 7:08 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Rhode Island judge handling organized labor’s sprawling challenge to the state’s landmark 2011 pension law has ordered that an unknown number of municipalities be added as defendants in the case.

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Providence pension investments beat state’s again

July 25th, 2014 at 5:02 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence pension fund’s investment performance beat the state’s once again in the fiscal year that just ended, and it wasn’t particularly close.

The City of Providence Employee Retirement System’s roughly $272-million portfolio earned 17.5% during the 12-month fiscal year that ended June 30. The Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island’s roughly $8.2-billion portfolio earned 15.1% over the same period.

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Providence pension lawsuit looming, trial this fall

July 24th, 2014 at 10:09 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A pending lawsuit by a group of retirees over changes to Providence’s pension system could cost the city more than $11 million over 10 years if the retirees prevail, according to data reviewed by the Target 12 Investigators.

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Providence admits actuary questioned its pension math

July 1st, 2014 at 12:54 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Lawyers for Providence Mayor Angel Taveras have rewritten bond documents to acknowledge that its actuary disagrees with the way the city reported how much money is in its cash-strapped pension fund.

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Cianci defends 1991 decision that ballooned pension debt

June 26th, 2014 at 9:45 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence mayoral candidate Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. on Thursday defended a decision he made during his second administration that resulted in generous pension benefits for hundreds of municipal retirees.

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• Related: How ‘comedy of errors’ torpedoed Providence pension fund (Nov. 28, 2011)

Buddy Cianci still eligible for city pension in Providence

June 24th, 2014 at 11:30 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former Providence Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. remains eligible to get a pension from the city regardless of whether he decides to make a comeback bid for his old job.

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Raimondo stands by hedge-fund adviser canned by Mass.

June 24th, 2014 at 12:10 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – General Treasurer Gina Raimondo is keeping for now the California financial adviser that helps her office pick hedge funds for the state’s investment portfolio, despite a recent decision by the Massachusetts pension board to cut ties with the same company.

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Watch Newsmakers: Yelnosky on pensions; Joe Paolino

May 11th, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Moody’s: Failure of RI pension settlement a ‘credit negative’

April 21st, 2014 at 12:31 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A top Wall Street ratings agency is ringing an alarm bell over the recent rejection of a proposed pension settlement that Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Treasurer Gina Raimondo had hammered out with the state’s labor unions.

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Watch Newsmakers: NEARI’s Robert Walsh

April 21st, 2014 at 10:30 am by under Nesi's Notes

Weightlifting ex-firefighter plans to sue for $7M over pension

April 18th, 2014 at 6:22 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Retired Providence firefighter John Sauro – who was collecting a tax-free disability pension when he was seen in Target 12 undercover video lifting weights – has filed a notice with city officials that he intends to sue the city for $7 million for taking away his pension.

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Judge Taft-Carter: RI pension lawsuit can move forward

April 16th, 2014 at 12:26 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s public-sector unions and retirees have won another court victory in the battle over the 2011 pension law.

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RI pension mediation ends; trial set for Sept

April 11th, 2014 at 2:44 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s landmark pension law is heading to trial.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo said Friday the state and its major labor unions have ended court-ordered mediation talks after eligible police officers voted to reject a proposed pension settlement. The two sides are now set to head to trial Sept. 15.

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Providence’s pension return tops state’s since ’11

March 27th, 2014 at 5:50 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The pension plan in Rhode Island’s capital city has outperformed the state’s fund since Democratic rivals Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimondo took office, the city’s longtime financial consultants said Thursday.

The analysis, conducted by Boston-based Wainwright Investment Counsel, shows Providence’s $284 million in investments earned a 10.9% return between 2011 and 2013, while the state pension fund earned a 9.2% return during the same time period.

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Union leader: Opposing pension settlement deal is irrational

March 19th, 2014 at 11:01 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Opposition to the proposed Rhode Island pension settlement from rank-and-file union members and retirees is “neither rational nor legally sound,” according to one of their leaders who is backing the deal.

Roger Boudreau, president of the Rhode Island American Federation of Teachers’ retirees chapter and a member of the state Retirement Board, made the comments in a Monday email to members of the Rhode Island Public Employees Retiree Coalition (RIPERC), the lead plaintiffs in the case.

“If you have already cast your ballot into the waste basket, you have made a rational and informed decision to agree to the Settlement,” Boudreau wrote in the message, which was obtained by


Pension settlement ballots sent; due back by April 3

March 17th, 2014 at 2:54 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

This just in from the union plaintiffs coalition:

Mail ballots have been sent to members and retirees who are eligible to participate in the first round of voting.

Voting members shall be advised that ballots must be received no later than Thursday April 3, 2014. A self-addressed, postage-paid envelope has been provided with the ballot. Ballot tabulation will be independently administered by ProMail.

Per the terms outlined in the settlement agreement, the mail balloting process for this round of voting must be completed within 60 days of February 14, 2014.

ProMail Etc. is a Providence-based nonprofit social venture affiliated with The Providence Center, a behavioral health organization, that offers job opportunities to individuals “with barriers to employment,” according to ProMail’s website.


Watch Newsmakers: US Attorney Neronha; Sen. Ryan Pearson

March 2nd, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Dems angling to succeed Raimondo all back pension deal

February 26th, 2014 at 12:53 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The men vying to succeed Gina Raimondo as Rhode Island’s general treasurer are all supporting the proposed settlement she recently announced that would end unions’ legal challenge to the 2011 pension law.

The three Democrats running for treasurer are former Treasurer Frank Caprio, former Internal Auditor Ernie Almonte, and political newcomer Seth Magaziner. No Republican has entered the race so far.

Almonte spoke out Wednesday in a Providence Journal op-ed, describing the settlement as possibly “the best short-term option” while also criticizing how long lawmakers allowed the pension problem to fester.

“This is a worthwhile settlement because it achieves significant savings without costly litigation and uncertainty,” Almonte, who raised red flags about the pension problem as internal auditor, wrote. “But it also highlights the true cost of continuing to delay making difficult decisions that will shape our state’s future.”


Taveras, Raimondo exchange harsh words over pensions

February 25th, 2014 at 3:49 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The campaigns of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo exchanged fire Tuesday about the two Democrats’ records on pensions, signaling Rhode Island’s ongoing battle over retirement benefits will be a battleground in this year’s primary for governor.

“Not only has the mayor failed to solve Providence’s pension problem, for most of his term he was too busy to bother with it,” Raimondo campaign manager Eric Hyers told “He skipped 80% of the meetings of the board that oversees the city’s pension fund in the first half of his term.”

“We’re not surprised that she’s attacking him now since her constantly evolving positions and statements prove that she will say or do anything to get elected,” Taveras campaign manager Danny Kedem told

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Despite settlement, pension lawsuit trial still set for Sept. 15

February 24th, 2014 at 3:42 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Preparations for a September trial in the union lawsuit challenging Rhode Island’s landmark 2011 pension overhaul are still happening despite the high-profile announcement of a proposed settlement to end the suit.

Court spokesman Craig Berke confirmed Monday that the Sept. 15 start date for the pension lawsuit trial remains in place. R.I. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter set the date on Feb. 12, just hours after the first press conference to announce the pension settlement was abruptly postponed.

Berke told that if the proposed settlement hasn’t been approved by Sept. 15 – which would require affirmative votes by workers, retirees and state lawmakers – the trial will begin as scheduled.

Judge Taft-Carter ordered lawyers on both sides of the pension suit to begin coming up with an agreed-upon schedule for the pre-trial discovery phase when evidence will be collected. The judge also ordered that discovery should be completed by 30 days before Sept. 15.

The trial, like the settlement, would cover not only unions’ challenge to the 2011 pension overhaul but also their earlier suit opposing pension cuts enacted by the General Assembly in 2009 and 2010. The two sides presumably could still complete a settlement and end the litigation after the trial begins, however.

Moody’s backs RI pension settlement as ‘credit positive’

February 24th, 2014 at 12:51 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Moodys RI pension settlement cropBy Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A top Wall Street ratings agency is throwing its support behind the proposed pension settlement deal reached earlier this month by Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Treasurer Gina Raimondo and the state’s labor unions.

The analysts from Moody’s Investors Service acknowledged, however, that some of Rhode Island’s more cash-strapped local governments could struggle to fund the higher costs called for under the pension settlement, singling out Woonsocket and Providence.

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• Related: 10 ways to look at the proposed RI pension settlement (Feb. 20)

(chart: Moody’s Investors Service)

Watch Newsmakers: Roundtable on primaries, pension deal

February 23rd, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Watch: Answering your questions on the pension settlement

February 21st, 2014 at 5:53 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

RI unions get set to meet, vote on pension settlement deal

February 20th, 2014 at 4:40 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

J. Michael Downey, president of Council 94, Rhode Island’s largest public-employees union, sent an email to his members Thursday laying out what happens next in the pension settlement process.

Downey reports that every eligible worker or retiree “will soon receive a mail ballot” allowing them to vote on whether to proceed with the settlement, though he didn’t provide any specific dates or deadlines. There are six blocs of voters, including state workers and teachers, and if more than 50% of members of any of the six blocs vote against the settlement, it’s off.

“Consistent with class action litigation, members who accept the proposed settlement are not required to take any action, as unreturned ballots shall be considered as agreeing with the settlement,” Downey also notes – meaning anyone who doesn’t return a ballot will be counted as a “yes” vote on the settlement.