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Thursday, February 21, 2008

City must pay cop facing jail time



Read more about this story in Friday's edition of the New Haven Register and at www.nhregister.com

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— The city must pay a former police lieutenant tens of thousands of dollars in retirement benefits improperly denied to him after his arrest on federal corruption charges and subsequent termination, according to an arbitration ruling.
In a decision dated Feb. 15 and received by the city Thursday, the arbitrator ruled that former Lt. William White, shown at right, was, in fact, already retired when the Board of Police Commissioners fired him on April 4, 2007, and, as such, is entitled to lump sum payout for accumulated sick time, unused vacation days and holiday pay, which the city had refused to pay, a police union lawyer said.
That means White, 64, who is scheduled to be sentenced to federal prison in April, is entitled to roughly $44,700 from the city as well as a nearly $3,000 bump in his annual pension.
As a result of the decision, the city canceled a planned termination hearing for another police officer who has run afoul with the law. Detective Clarence Willoughby, who was arrested Feb. 6 for allegedly stealing from the department’s confidential informants fund and put in retirement papers the same day, was scheduled to appear before the Board of Police Commissioners tonight. This afternoon, as a result of the arbitration award to White, the city canceled the meeting and planned to drop all departmental charges against the 24-year veteran. The criminal case will continue.
The police union had filed a grievance on White’s behalf last year, arguing the 39-year veteran was retired as of March 15, 2007, the day he filed his pension application and two days after his arrest by the FBI.
The police board fired him on April 4 and the city argued it had the authority to do so because the Police and Fire Pension Board had not yet voted on his pension. The pension, which was an entitlement under the union contract, was approved on April 12 retroactive to the day he put in his papers.
The city argued that the pension board’s function is only to administer provisions of the pension plan and that it is the police board that determines whether a person is retired or terminated.
Further, whichever board had authority to retire an employee, the city maintained, neither board had accepted White’s pension application and as such the police board had the authority to fire him.
The arbitrator agreed with the union, concluding that jurisdiction over pension applications is with the Police and Fire Pension Fund and not with the police board. The union also had argued that White was fired without just cause, but the decision rendered that point moot.

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