EngageRI dissolves itself, questions need for suit mediation

Engage Rhode Island, the business-backed advocacy group that helped stoke popular support for overhauling the state pension system, has dissolved, the group said in a statement Friday afternoon. More

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EngageRI dissolves itself, questions need for suit mediation

ENGAGE RHODE ISLAND, the group that advocated for pension reform in the state, has voted to disband itself.
Posted 9/6/13

PROVIDENCE – Engage Rhode Island, the business-backed advocacy group that helped stoke popular support for overhauling the state pension system, has dissolved, the group said in a statement Friday afternoon.

Although the state law pension law EngageRI fought for remains mired in court, the group’s board of directors believed they had “fulfilled our mission,” Chairman John Galvin, CFO of Collette Vacations in Pawtucket, said in the statement.

“Given that there is no further role for public debate in the process and that we have fulfilled our mission, the Board of EngageRI has elected to dissolve the organization.”

EngageRI raised more than $900,000 from an undisclosed list of donors in 2011 and 2012 to support an advertising campaign promoting legislation that would reduce the state’s unfunded pension liability.

The majority of that money, at least $525,000, was spent before the General Assembly voted on bills that scaled back benefits to public workers in November 2011.

After the vote, EngageRI put money that was left toward politicians in election fights who had supported the pension overhaul.

R.I. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter has ordered the state and public workers suing over the pension law into mediation.

As talks between the two sides have taken place this year, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee has pushed for an agreement in the case while General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo, prime mover of the overhaul, has held a tougher line.

EngageRI was seen as a resource for Raimondo.

In its final statement, EngageRI questioned the mediation process.

“We continue to believe that [pension law] is an appropriate and constitutional solution to our state’s pension crisis and were mystified when a lawsuit challenging reform was referred by a Rhode Island Superior Court Judge to a mediator,” Galvin said. “We are still unclear as to why the state is incurring the time and expense it takes to mediate a constitutional question.”

As of Friday afternoon, the group’s website was not responding.

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