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Regional emergency management coordinators take home two pensions and state vehicles

Regional coordinators for the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security are receiving municipal pensions while employed by the state of Connecticut and driving state vehicles, including Emergency Management Director William J. Hackett.

Hackett retired as chief of the Branford Fire Department and president of the union local of the International Association of Firefighters before being appointed to the position in 2006. Hackett receives a disability pension in the amount of $45,175.80 per year through the Municipal Employee Retirement System, according the state comptroller’s office.

But he is not alone.

There are five regional coordinators for emergency management and homeland security, a part of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, although one of those positions is currently vacant. During emergencies the regional coordinators “serve as resource coordinators and liaisons” between the towns and the Governor’s State Emergency Operations Center, according to the Connecticut State Response Framework.

The job comes with a six figure salary and state benefits including a lifetime state pension – sometimes in addition to a pension they already receive from previous government employment.

Robert Kenny was hired as Region 1 coordinator in 2008. Kenny had formerly been an assistant police chief for the Town of Orange until he was forced to resign – along with several other officers – over a sex scandal in 2003.

Despite his new DESPP salary and benefit package of $132,000, Kenny successfully sued the Town of Orange in 2010 for his pension benefit, which was originally denied because he had not completed 20 years of service. He will start receiving his pension in March of 2019.

Upon retirement, Kenny will receive his pension from the Town of Orange plus a state pension and lifetime health benefits for his work at the DESPP.

Similarly, John Field, regional coordinator for Region 2 was chief of the Torrington Fire Department and Thomas Vannini, Region 5 coordinator, was a police officer for the City of Torrington for 27 years as well as their Emergency Management Director. The comptroller for the City of Torrington confirmed that both men are currently receiving pensions.

Michael Caplet, Region 4 coordinator was formerly Gov. Dannel Malloy’s deputy director of intergovernmental affairs. Working for the governor, Caplet’s salary was $60,000 per year but that was increased to $93,000 when he was appointed coordinator of Region 4.

The coordinators are also provided $36,000 Ford Interceptors, similar to the vehicles used state troopers but equipped with “emergency management-related equipment.” Scott DeVico, spokesman for the DESPP, said the coordinators are “subject to 24 hour on-call and use these all-wheel drive vehicles to travel in adverse or emergency conditions.”

All combined the regional coordinators and Director Hackett account for $648,123.76 in annual salary and benefits, plus an additional $180,000 for the vehicles. This figure does not include the unfilled Region 3 position.

Although DESPP could not comment on pensions derived from lawsuits or disabilities, DeVico said “we hire the most experienced and qualified candidates for a position. These individuals are dedicated public servants whose number one priority is to keep the citizens of the state of Connecticut safe and secure.”

Regional coordinators are hired through “the state hiring process,” according to DeVico.

Since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Connecticut has issued a state of emergency four different times according to the DESPP, including a public health emergency declaration 2014 in response to the Ebola scare.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has also partially or fully activated the State Emergency Operations Center 23 times in that same period.

An emergency declaration by the governor provides greater authority to operate and “determines the legal and operational resources available to respond to an emergency,” according to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

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Marc E. Fitch

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