By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Fifty-six state troopers who were laid off in August will be getting their jobs back later this month due to savings created by retiring veteran troopers.
Reuben Bradford, commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said Monday that the layoff notices have been rescinded and most of the rookie troopers will return to the road on Oct. 7 and Oct. 21. Bradford, himself a former state trooper, said he’s glad the jobs will be saved and that he never wanted to cut them in the first place.
“But, it was a fiscal reality we were facing, and we couldn’t have people on staff that we didn’t have money for, in order to pay them,” Bradford said. Forty officers have since retired, saving the state nearly $2.3 million in salaries. Annual pay for the 56 laid-off rookie troopers totaled $1.9 million.
Besides the trooper positions, other state jobs are expected to be re-filled because of the larger-than-expected number of state employees overall who decided to retire before changes to the state’s retirement system, included in a new labor concessions agreement, took effect. The deadline was last Friday.
Gian-Carl Casa, a spokesman for the Office of Policy and Management, said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget office had estimated 1,000 workers would file their retirement papers between July and October. Casa said on Monday that 1,575 actually submitted their paperwork.
Malloy said last week that his budget director had begun meeting with commissioners to determine which vacant jobs across various agencies should be refilled.
“The more people who retire, the more flexibility we have,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior adviser. He said the governor wants to save money but does not want to decimate state services.
“Some of those people will be replaced. Many of them won’t,” Occhiogrosso said.
The troopers were laid off after their union failed to fully ratify the concessions agreement the governor said he needed to help balance the state budget. Unions that fully ratified the deal reached with Malloy’s administration were promised four years of no layoffs. The Connecticut State Police Union tried unsuccessfully to block the layoffs in court.
The judge has yet to issue an opinion on whether to require the state to abide by a minimum staffing level of 1,248 troopers, included in a 1998 state law.
Sgt. Andrew Matthews, president of the troopers’ union, said he could not comment on the fate of the lawsuit because the case is still pending. But he said the union is thankful to Malloy and his administration for bringing their members back to work quickly. They’ve been off the job since August.
“This is a real positive step toward having a constructive relationship between the union and the state police leadership and the Malloy Administration,” he said. “We’re just really happy to see our members coming back to work.”
Matthews said he doesn’t believe the union’s litigation contributed to the rookie troopers being re-hired.
When asked if he plans to meet the 1,248 minimum, Bradford said he already has commissioned a study to determine exactly how many people are needed in the state police. An agency spokesman confirmed there will be 1,081 troopers on the road once the 56 rookies are back on the job.
Bradford had shifted some senior troopers, assigned to specialty units, to patrol duties after the 56 troopers were laid off. On Monday, he said that not all those positions in the specialty units will be re-filled with the veteran troopers. Some, he said, may be filled with civilians and “that the police officers are placed in a position where they’re functioning as a police officer.”
Bradford said he also hopes to hire 60 to 80 new troopers before June 5. That’s when a list expires of potential candidates who’ve already passed the necessary exam and begun the selection process. He said the state police normally lose about 50 troopers a year to retirements under the current system.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)