Almond Takes Principled Stand On Pension Bill

Councilwoman says she expects retaliation for opposing a bill that would change how employees appeal pension decisions made by the county.

When she was elected in 2010, Vicki Almond saw her role on the council differently than what it has developed into.

"I thought I'd be a compromise-builder, a mediator," Almond said. "I think that has developed into a different role. I'm just starting to accept that role."

That new role, by her own definition—"a fighter, a bulldog"—has put her at odds with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in the last 12 months. A year ago, as chairwoman, Almond was one of four councilmembers to table a bill that sought to change the pension calculations for some county employees.

Tonight, Almond may find herself the lone vote against a bill that seeks to change the process employees use when they appeal pension decisions made by the county.

"What does it say about our county if this is how we treat people who work for us for 30 or 40 years?" Almond said. "This is really about principle."

Currently, the seven-member Board of Appeals is responsible for hearing the appeals involving pension benefits and disability claims. The proposed change would move those appeals to a pair of quasi-judicial hearing officers, positions that were created and appointed by Kamenetz shortly after he was sworn-in in 2010.

Some union officials believe the change is motivated by a number of decisions that went against Baltimore County.

Almond says she sees the connection also and is concerned.

"This bill is wrong to me in so many ways," Almond said. "We can't do this to our employees. They need a fair process. It not fairness what it all comes down to? How we treat people and how we want to be treated."

Almond backs a request to delay the vote so that the council can obtain an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General.

It's unclear if that proposal will have much support.

"I don't know if I changed minds but I got people thinking," Almond said.

Almond understands that her opposition might have repercussions.

Last year, she and three other councilmembers opposed a pension calculation bill sought by the administration. Within days, those four councilmembers saw the budget for roads projects gutted and an extra $3 million was shifted to districts represented by those who supported the bill.

Almond acknowledged that some on the council have been threatened with their budgets for the coming year. She said she has not been threatened because "they don't talk to me much any more."

She said she just wants to do the right thing.

"I'm not here to make [Kamenetz] like me" she said of casting a vote just to get along with the administration.

She said she's unconcerned about retaliation and will vote her conscience.

"If I compromise my principles to get a road paved or a school done, that's really wrong," Almond said.

"I didn't ask for a lot," she said. "If I don't get my capital projects because of this vote I'll find other ways to get them

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Megan Saunders February 20, 2013 at 03:23 AM
I respect councilwoman Almond for her taking her stand. The county executive should not be allowed to bully the council members into pushing through his proposals.
moe green February 20, 2013 at 12:27 PM
GO KK. screw public employee unions
Buck Harmon February 20, 2013 at 01:47 PM
I believe that this will be 10 minutes well spent....hope that you are not offended...I was brought up a Methodist...what ever method works...I suppose.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U
Jake Mohorovic February 20, 2013 at 02:46 PM
Now that the Baltimore County Council approved the KK Administration proposals to insert an additional layer of review, both sides, the KK Administration and the Unions will have to monitor upcoming retirement appeals and determine if the decisions made by the 2 administrative judges are fair or unfair. If the decisions made are clearly lopsided at this new administrative 2 judge reviewlevel , then the Council would need to re-think their decision.
Eric Bromwell February 20, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Good for you! I wish my Councilman would have joined you. Way to stand up to the pressure!


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