Drop the shenanigans

The six City Council members who signed up for the controversial DROP plan should not accept the pension perk if they plan to seek re-election. The same goes for any other elected officials in the city.

More important, voters should not support any candidate who enters the so-called Deferred Retirement Option Plan but has no intention of actually retiring.

City Council President Anna Verna is among six Council members signed up for the DROP program who have not said they will not run for re-election.

Such dishonesty is so egregious that this Editorial Board will not endorse a candidate who plans to collect DROP money and seek re-election. That’s being said now so those up for re-election in 2011 can’t say they weren’t warned.
Regardless of any past accomplishments, collecting the DROP payment and remaining in office sends the wrong message as to whose interest the elected officials are serving. This city can produce other viable candidates who would put the public first.

The six Council members in line to collect a DROP payment when their terms expire at the end of 2011 include Democrats Frank DiCicco, Donna Reed Miller, Marian Tasco, and Anna C. Verna, and Republicans Jack Kelly and Frank Rizzo. Their payments will range from almost $200,000 for Rizzo to nerly $600,000 for Verna, the Council’s president.

None has promised not to seek re-election. If they win, they could retire for a day at the end of 2011, collect the pension perk, and begin serving their new term.

The shameless move may be technically legal, but it violates the spirit of elected office. If someone retires from office, they should not be allowed to return.

DROP began in 1999 under then-Mayor Edward G. Rendell. The plan allows workers to select a retirement date four years in the future, freeze their pension benefit, and begin accruing payments into an account with a guaranteed 4.5 percent interest rate.

Some say DROP was designed to retain good workers. Others say it was an incentive for early retirement. Still others say it was designed to give departments advance notice for succession planning. There’s no good evidence that it does any of those things.

One thing is clear: DROP should not apply to elected officials. They don’t have to set retirement dates. Voters decide that.

DROP has been abused by other elected officials and city workers. After winning re-election in 2008, Council member Joan Krajewski retired for a day, collected her roughly $275,000 DROP check, and then was sworn in for another four-year term.

That’s an abuse of the system that should end. In fact, it’s time to drop the DROP altogether.