Press conference on pension settlement canceled, trial date set
GENERAL TREASURER Gina M. Raimondo said the state is "still in the process of working out the details" of a proposed settlement of Rhode Island's battle with public-sector unions over pension reform. A 2:30 p.m. press conference expected to publicize details of the proposed settlement was called off early Wednesday morning.
PROVIDENCE – Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter has set a trial date for the state pension reform lawsuits following the cancellation of a scheduled press conference that was expected to announce details of a deal to settle the suits.
In a Tweet posted late morning by the Rhode Island Courts it was reported that Taft-Carter met with the parties to the lawsuits and set a trial date for Sept. 15. There was no call to end the court-ordered talks with a federal mediator.
Wednesday afternoon, the Department of Administration's Director of Policy Allison Rogers confirmed that Sept. 15, 2014, had been set as the trial date for the pension suit. Rogers could not comment on what the announcement of a trial date might mean in terms of a potential settlement.
The press conference was abruptly canceled early Wednesday morning at the joint request of state and union attorneys, according to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
In an email sent at 5:22 a.m., the federal agency responsible for mediating the dispute said both parties “continue to talk and work with federal mediators” and “remain under the court-mandated confidentiality order.”
The FMCS did not provide further details about why the press conference, which had been scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, was called off.
WPRI reported that a 9 a.m. meeting of the State Retirement Board, during which officials were to discuss the proposed settlement, went into closed-door executive session after General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo, who chairs the board, said there wouldn’t be any “big news” on the deal today.
“We are still in the process of working out the details of the mediation,” she was quoted as saying. “We worked late into the night and we’re not completed.”
The lawsuit filed by Rhode Island’s public-sector unions targets sweeping reforms made to the state’s public retirement plan in November 2011, aimed at cutting $3 billion from the state’s unfunded liability, estimated at $7.3 billion at the time.
Five unions representing state and municipal workers, teachers, firefighters and police claim the law violated their constitutional rights by breaking contracts and taking away benefits earned by retirees and workers.