Adamowski Pension Charade continues

On August 29, 2013, “Special Master” Steven Adamowski was completing his second year under a $225,000 no-bid contract that the Malloy Administration had run through the State Education Resource Center.

The next day, August 30, 2013, “Special Master” Steven Adamowski was a Connecticut state employee, holding the title of Durational Project Manager.

Same duties, different employer.

Steven Adamowski is so “special” that the Malloy/Pryor Operation didn’t even bother to post the position or follow any type of competitive or open hiring process.

The words Steven Adamowski and Special seem to go hand in hand.

Although only certified teachers are allowed to participate in the State Teachers Retirement System, a loophole in the state statutes will allow Steven Adamowski, who IS NOT CERTIFIED to teach or certified be a school administrator; to use his new job in the Malloy administration to add years to his Teachers Retirement pension.

Alternatively, Adamowski can use his new state position to guarantee himself full retired state employee health benefits assuming he works for the state for five years.

As retired school teachers and administrators know, Connecticut’s teacher retirement health insurance program is limited and getting more and more expensive.

While retired state employees receive more substantial and less-expensive health insurance, retired teachers are facing higher and higher premiums.  Some retired teachers are coming face to face with the reality that they simply can’t afford even the more limited health insurance package that is available to them.

But thanks to Governor Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski will not only collect a pension from the Teachers Retirement System, but if he continues to play his cards right he’ll get to retire with the state’s retired state employee health plan that could be worth $20,000 or more a year…..for life.

But as noted above, Steven Adamowski is used to special treatment.

  • On the last day of the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2007 legislative session an amendment was added to a bill that allowed Steven Adamowski to serve as Hartford’s superintendent of schools despite the fact that he did not have the certification to be a superintendent in Connecticut.  He held that position for five years.  The only other person to benefit from that section of the Connecticut state statutes is none-other-than Paul Vallas (although they had to change the statute to try to fit his particular circumstances). 
  • Then, speaking of special treatment, in 2012, when Governor Malloy introduced his “Education Reform” legislation, Section 32 of Malloy’s bill sought to retroactively give Steven Adamowski Teacher Retirement pension credits for his time as Hartford’s superintendent.  Following widespread publicity about the end-run to boost Adamowski’s pension, the legislature removed the special language. 
  • Meanwhile, it was about the same time that Adamowski got his no-bid, $225,000 plus benefits contract to serve as “Special Master” of Windham.  His role was later expanded to serve as “Special Master” for both Windham and New London. 
  • The contract to serve as “Special Master,” included language that tried to allow him to tap into the Teacher Retirement System for his time as “Special Master,” but he was once again blocked from adding years due to his lack of teacher certification.

But now, thanks to the decision to make him a state employee, Adamowski is back in the driver’s seat, where is able to add years to his Teachers Retirement Pension or go for the more generous health benefits.

Whether you call him a Friend of Dan (FOD) or a Friend of Stefan (FOS) there is simply no question that Steven Adamowski is special!

News Flash: Mystery solved: Pryor’s appointment of Adamowski as state employee will push up Special Master’s pension!

Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education have figured out a way to circumvent the Connecticut General Assembly and push up Special Master Steven Adamowski’s pension.

As a result of a 2006 change in the Connecticut State Statutes, Steven Adamowski was able to serve for five years as the uncertified superintendent of schools in Hartford, Connecticut.  However, as a result of a separate statute that limits participation in the Connecticut Teachers Retirement System to those who hold valid teaching or administrative certificates, Adamowski couldn’t add those years to the number of years he had collected when he served as a Connecticut teacher and administrator much earlier in this career.

So last year, hidden deep inside of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill was a change to the law that would have retroactively added those five years to Adamowski’s pension.  The move would have added tens of thousands to Adamowski’s pension since his salary was now in excess of two hundred thousand dollars.  But after the story appeared in Wait, What? the Courant and other media outlets, the legislators deleted the “Adamowski provision” from the new law and Adamowski lost his gift of five extra years added to his public pension.

That said, the effort to boost Adamowski’s pension resurfaced when Adamowski was given a $225,000, plus benefits, no-bid contract through the State Education Resource Center (SERC).  Adamowski’s contract included language that read , “Also, Dr. Adamowski will be eligible to continue membership in the Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement System.”

However, that attempt to boost his pension also fizzled when it was realized that while state law does allow the staff of the State Education Resource Center to be part of the State Teachers Retirement System only but only if they are “employed in a professional capacity while possessing a certificate or permit issued by the State Board of Education.”

Since Adamowski is not certified and doesn’t have a valid teacher or administrator certificate, he could not add the time he worked at SERC as Windham and New London’s “Special Master.”

But then last week, out of the blue, Commissioner Pryor announced that with the State Board of Education’s approval, Steven Adamowski would no longer be working through SERC but would, instead, become a state employee.

Pryor never posted the new state position.  He failed to go through any recruitment or review process.  He simply announced that he was giving Steven Adamowski a senior management position in the state agency. at  a cost of $163,000.

Pryor did make a point of mentioning that Adamowski would be taking a $63,000 pay cut.

As the Courant reported at the time, Kelly Donnelly, Commissioner Pryor’s spokeswoman explained that, “the cut in pay brought Adamowski’s salary in line with that of other top-level salaries in the state agency.”

And Adamowski sent an email to the Courant saying that the cut was “something I can live with.”

Adamowski also reported that he had agreed to carry on his work, “due to my commitment to the schoolchildren of Windham and New London who need better schools and to the unfinished nature of the turnaround work in both Districts.”

At the same time, Adamowski told the New London Day that he accepted the move from being a SERC employee to being a state employee because, “The SERC salary was not realistic.”

But as Wait, What? readers from the coverage posted here, there were just too many unresolved questions to make the Pryor/Adamowski story believable.

The primary and nagging question was why would Adamowski move from a job that paid $225,000 plus state-employee like benefits to a job that paid $163,000 plus state employee benefits unless there was some other piece to the puzzle.

Of course, the reasonable assumption was that it had to be a last-ditch attempt to boost Adamowski’s pension…But the question was how; since Teachers Retirement credits can’t be moved to the State Employee Retirement System and State Employee Retirement credits can’t be moved to the Teacher’s system.

Well the mystery has finally been resolved and the answer lies in exactly a dozen words deep inside the existing state statutes!

Subsection 26 of Section 10-183b of the Connecticut State Statutes defines the term “Teacher” for the purposes of the Connecticut Teachers Retirement System…And subsection (D) of subsection 26 of Section 10-183b provides that “a member of the professional staff of the State Board of Education” may elect to be in the Teachers Retirement System instead of the State Employees Retirement System.

The phrase, “a member of the professional staff of the State Board of Education”is not limited by whether or not the individual is certified to serve as a teacher or administrator.

Since the State Retirement System is generally more generous than the Teacher Retirement System, the provision was obviously created so that if a Connecticut school teacher or administrator worked for a time at the State Department of Education they wouldn’t be forced to be in two different systems…the Teacher Retirement System for their teaching years and the State Employee Retirement System for their time at the Department of Education.

Instead they could be a teacher, go to work for the state Department of Education and then return to working in a school district.

But by leaving off the reference to being an employee of the State Department of Education AND  a certified  teacher or administrator, the laws opened up a massive loophole that Steven Adamowski is now strutting through thanks to Commissioner Pryor and Governor Malloy.

As a state employee, Adamowski will be able to sidestep the State Employee Retirement System rules – for example – having to work ten years before vesting his pension.  Instead he will be able to immediately add years to his Teachers Retirement System  penson – EVEN THOUGH HE IS NOT CERTIFIED TO TEACH OR BE AN ADMINISTRATOR IN CONNECTICUT.

Not only will he get to add his time at the State Department of Education to his Teacher Retirement Pension, but for every two years he works at the state he will be able to buy yet another year of retirement credits for the time he worked as a school administrator in another state.

As of now, Adamowski has ten years into the State Teacher Retirement System, time that he collected for his work many years ago when was employed by various Connecticut school districts.  Since he reached his ten-year threshold, he also qualifies under the program to purchase four years of his out-of-state service.  So at this point in time he only has 14 years toward a Connecticut Teachers Retirement Pension…enough for a pension, but a relatively small one..

However, with his new status as a highly paid state employee, he not only will get the benefit of additional years and the higher salary but will be able to purchase even more out-of-state time.  Two years as a state employee and he can purchase one more year of out-of-state service.  Four years at the Department of Education could actually mean he collects a total of more six more years of pension credits.

Factor in the $163,000 a year (and more) that he will be making at the Department of Education and this shift from being an employee of SERC to being a the State of Connecticut will increase his annual pension by thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars.

As Governor Malloy sits on top of one of the largest unfunded state and teacher pension systems in the country, an unfunded liability that will cost Connecticut taxpayers more than $20 billion to resolve over the next two decades, leave it to back room politics of the Malloy administration to wheel and deal a way for Steven Adamowski to boost his pension at taxpayer expense.

But as the corporate education reformers like to say….”it is all for the children.”

You can read more background on the Pryor/Adamowski move here:

http://jonathanpelto.com/2013/09/05/hell-going-pryor-state-board-education-make-adamowski-state-employee/

http://articles.courant.com/2013-09-04/news/hc-state-board-education-0905-20130904_1_windham-special-master-education-commissioner-stefan-pryor

http://articles.courant.com/2013-09-06/news/hc-adamowski-pay-cut-0907-20130906_1_special-master-education-commissioner-stefan-pryor-steven-adamowski

http://theday.com/article/20130904/NWS01/130909905/1018

Early Retirement Agreement Update:

State employees who are eligible may elect to retire in lieu of layoff under the terms of the new Stipulated Agreement between the Malloy Administration and SEBAC:

State employee employed as of December 1, 2012 and you are a member of the Connecticut State Employees Retirement System (SERS).  Offer applies to non-represented employees, including managers, as well as to members of all bargaining units.  

Prior to August 31, 2011 you were under the age of 55 AND had twenty-five or more years of service. 

SERS members must irrevocably elect to retire in lieu of layoff AND sign a stipulated agreement by May 1, 2013.

Retirement date: Eligible Tier I members must retire no later than July 1, 2013.  Tier 2 members must retire no later than September 1, 2014.

Benefit to Tier I members (must retire no later than July 1, 2013): The eligible member may elect between the following two options:

a. Have their benefit reduced by 4.5% for each year they are under 55 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired after October 1, 2011; OR

b. Have their benefit reduced by 6.0% for each year they are under 55 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired before October 1, 2011.

Benefit to Tier II members who elect to retire no later than July 1, 2013:  The eligible member may elect between the following two options:

Have their benefit reduced by 4.5% for each year they are under 60 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired after October 1, 2011; OR

Have their benefit reduced by 6.0% for each year they are under 60 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired before October 1, 2011.

Benefit to Tier II members who elect to retire after July 1, 2013 and no later than September 1, 2014: The benefit will be reduced like any other early retirement benefit (6% for each year before eligibility for normal retirement), however, individuals who elect to retire in lieu of layoff will be entitled to the COLA provisions in effect for individuals who retired prior to October 1, 2011.

State/SEBAC retirement settlement finally reached…

Last September I inaccurately reported – ALERT/UPDATE: Arbitrator rules against Malloy Administration on significant retirement issue.   Last November I wrote a post entitled, Is another Connecticut State Employee Early Retirement Incentive coming?.

The rumors and hypothesis all revolved around two factors.  What was deemed to be a potentially illegal move by the Malloy Administration to grant certain hand-selected individuals special early retirement benefits almost two years ago and the broader recognition that the Malloy Administration desperately wants to reduce the state workforce — thereby moving costs from the General Fund over to the Pension Fund.

Well, while details are still sketchy, an agreement was finally reached between late last week between the Malloy Administration and SEBAC on the early retirement grievance and details will be sent out to impacted state employees within the next 24 hours.

Those who qualify under the new agreement, the parameters of who qualifies I do not know, will be given the option to “retire early” as long as they sign the necessary paperwork by May 1 and retire by July 1.

Those receiving the emails are asked to provide additional details or additional details will be posted as they become available.

The Adamowski Pension: A Story of one Education Reformers Sense of “Entitlement”

Forty-five thousand teachers and nine thousand administrators have managed to follow Connecticut law and acquire Department of Education certification in order to participate in the Teachers Retirement System, but Steven Adamowski and the Malloy Administration continue to believe that one of Malloy’s “education reform experts” and  “Special Master” for the Windham School System, deserves an exemption from that “burden.”

Readers will recall that earlier this year, despite a $9 billion short-fall in Connecticut’s Teacher Pension Fund, Governor Malloy slipped language into his “Education Reform” bill to retroactively enlarge Adamowski’s teacher retirement pension by giving him credit for the years he served as the Superintendent of Schools in Hartford, despite the fact that he was not certified to be the superintendent.

This “gift” could amount to an additional $27,000, per year, when Adamowski retires.

In a display of courage, the Connecticut Legislature stripped that language out of the proposal bill before passing Malloy’s education reform bill.

But what was left unaddressed was the Malloy Administration’s on-going effort to get Adamowski credit for his time as “Special Master,” even though he still hasn’t gotten the certification he would need to get back into the retirement system.

Here is the latest…

Buried deep within the Connecticut State Statutes, Section 183b, subsection (E) of subsection (26) is language that was added in 2007.  The language expanded the definition of a “Teacher” (for the purpose of participating in the Teacher Retirement System) to include “(E) a member of the staff of the State Education Resource Center [SERC]…employed in a professional capacity while possessing a certificate or permit issued by the State Board of Education.”

The language put SERC’s employees into the Teacher Retirement System (as long as they possessed a certificate or permit issues by the State Board of Education). SERC is the agency that Commissioner Pryor has been using to get no-bid contracts to out-of-state education reform companies that have been helping develop and implement his “reform” agenda.

Well, back when the Windham take-over took place, rather than having to deal with the state laws pertaining to the hiring of consultants, the State Department of Education simply directed the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to hire Adamowski, via a no-bid contract, to serve as the state’s Special Master.

The contract, including a salary and benefits package in excess of a quarter of a million dollars, was signed by Adamowski, the Executive Director of SERC and the State Commissioner of Education.

The contract included language that reads “Dr. Adamowski will be allowed access to the same benefits as stated in the SERC Employee Handbook that other eligible SERC employees are offered, except as otherwise modified herein.  Dr. Adamowski will receive 25 days of accrued vacation time per year.  Dr. Adamowski will receive 15 days of sick time per fiscal year.  Dr. Adamowski will also be eligible for 3 days of paid personal time per fiscal year.  Also, Dr. Adamowski will be eligible to continue membership in the Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement System…”

That language raises two key questions.  Is Adamowski actually an “employee” of SERC (or is he a consultant), and if he is an employee, has he now acquired the proper certification or permit that is required under that language in 183b (26) (E) so that he can tap into the teacher’s retirement system.

In April, I submitted a request to SERC asking whether Adamowski was an employee or a consultant.  Despite repeated requests, SERC has refused to provide that information claiming it was part of Adamowski’s personnel file, which is exempt information under the Freedom of Information Act.

(As an aside, since SERC is a quasi-public entity, the public has a right to know whether an individual is or is not an employee, but for that, I’ll have to appeal to the Freedom of Information Commission).

But the more important questions are why did the Malloy Administration allow this language into Adamowski’s contract knowing that Adamowski doesn’t have the required certification and why are payments now being made into the pension fund, on Adamowski’s behalf, so that he can add these two years to his future state teachers retirement pension?

The State Board of Education is meeting today.  Among the agenda items is an update from Adamowski about his progress in Windham.

If Commissioner Pryor or Special Master Adamowski see this blog, perhaps they could explain to the State Board and the public what is going on with Adamowski’s pension and why they think one well-connected “education reformer” deserves to collect even more public funds despite the fact that he refuses to play by the same set of rules that everyone else has to play by?