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City councilman compares pension spiking to money laundering

LISTEN: Sal DiCiccio

PHOENIX — City of Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio has been a vocal opponent of pension spiking since last year, but now, the research he has conducted is nearly complete.

“The way they launder money is shocking to me,” DiCiccio told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Bruce St. James.

The controversy began when on-duty police officers were doing work for the police union but were still being paid by taxpayers.

After a judge ruled that practice illegal, the city created a workaround.

“What they did is they added more vacation days to those units,” DiCiccio said. “They gave them vacation days (so) that they can fund the union activity legally.”

The councilman pointed out that Phoenix is not the only city guilty of this type of this practice but said his research only looks at the pension spiking problem happening locally.

“If you look at a first-year City of Phoenix employee, 40 and a half days off you get, to start,” DiCiccio explained. “They accumulate these days year after year after year — people retire with 2,000 or 3,000 hours — then they cash in a portion of that at the higher wage that they had when they retired.”

But the bucks don’t stop there. DiCiccio said the public servant then gets “walkaway cash,” along with all their health benefits.

“We did a study of the top 100 individuals and how much they cost the city of Phoenix,” he said. “We had three people — they were fire personnel — they walked away with over a million dollars in cash, then (they walked) away with a pension on top of that, for life.”

Based on his findings of the top 100 city individuals, DiCiccio revealed an average amount of walkaway cash of over $370,000 and pensions topping $100,000 a year or more — at a retirement age of 54.

When faced with the arguments that law enforcement employees don’t get Social Security and that precincts are understaffed, resulting in longer or more work hours, DiCiccio defended his position, saying the math still doesn’t add up.

“Yes, you’re not getting Social Security, but even people that are on Social Security are not walking away with hundreds and thousands of dollars,” DiCiccio said. “What you have here is a situation that is unsustainable; it doesn’t work.”

DiCiccio maintained that he respects public servants, saying the problem permeates the entire city and doesn’t just stop at law enforcement and fire departments.

“We had a librarian for the City of Phoenix walk away with $207,000 and then a $100,000-plus a year pension,” he said.

DiCiccio said his findings are nearly complete and he looks forward to releasing them to the public.

“What I’m doing is putting it all together so the public can make their own determination,” he explained. “Obviously, I’m coming out saying, ‘I think this is wrong.’ I’d like to find somebody in the public that’s not a beneficiary of the system that says, ‘Hey, I love it.'”