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Top DROP Outs

July 24-30, 2003

cover story

Drop Dead

Ca-Ching!: Despite the cost to taxpayers, Virginio T. 

Mattia, who will collect $294,898, loves DROP.
Ca-Ching!: Despite the cost to taxpayers, Virginio T. Mattia, who will collect $294,898, loves DROP. Photo By: Michael T. Regan

Will the mayor stand up to labor in an election year and kill a $700 million pension-fund boondoggle? By Ralph Cipriano

When Chief Inspector Vincent DeBlasis of the city police department officially retires Sept. 30, he will leave office with a pension and something more valuable than a gold watch. "That little pot of gold" is how DeBlasis describes his lump-sum cash payment of $346,299.

How does a career civil servant score this kind of money? For the last four years, DeBlasis, 65, has been enrolled in a little-publicized experiment at City Hall known as the DROP, short for the Deferred Retirement Option Plan.

Taxpayers don't know much about the DROP, and reporters have largely ignored it, but thanks to its largess, city employees are about to make an unprecedented run on the pension fund.

City officials, in response to a Freedom of Information request from City Paper, have released a 73-page list of 3,484 city employees currently enrolled in the DROP. If all those employees stay enrolled in the DROP for the maximum time allowed -- four years -- they will leave their jobs over the next four years with cash payments that average, according to the records, more than $132,000 each, or a total of $461 million.

   

Over the rainbow: Former detective Vincent DeBlasis calls his DROP payment "that little pot of gold."
Photo By Michael T. Regan
 

To put that figure into perspective, in fiscal year 2002, the city spent $455 million on the entire police department.

The DROP payments to city employees range from as low as $24,000 for city crossing guards who earn $49 a day, to a high of $550,733 for Fire Commissioner Harold B. Hairston, who earns $129,500 a year. (For the past three weeks, Hairston has steadfastly refused comment on his top-rated jackpot.)

The stampede for DROP payments at City Hall has exceeded all official expectations and placed new strains on a city pension fund already depleted by a downturn of several years in the stock market. Why should anyone outside City Hall care about the DROP? Because when the pension fund runs short, city taxpayers are obligated to make up the difference.

"Anything that has a negative impact on the pension fund is the responsibility of the taxpayers," said city Finance Director Janice Davis in an interview.

There is a lot at stake here, too, for Mayor John F. Street, who inherited DROP from his predecessor, Ed Rendell. In a re-election year, Street faces the unenviable choice between saving taxpayers' money, or keeping a program demanded by unions, who may hold the key to his returning to room 215 in City Hall.

The bill for the DROP will be even higher than $461 million. Some 2,000 city employees are still eligible to sign up for the program. The city also did not release cost figures for lump-sum cash payments paid to some 700 employees who have already retired under the DROP.

The "total liability for DROP participants," according to the city's actuary, is listed in a report last year to city officials as $715 million. To put that number into perspective, the city spent only $610 million during the 2002 fiscal year for the entire police department ($455 million) and the entire fire department ($155 million).

This fall, the city's board of pensions and retirement is scheduled to review a cost analysis of the first four years of the DROP. The pension board is supposed to decide whether to continue the experimental program, which originally was billed as a way to hang on to the city's most experienced employees at a price tag that was supposed to be "cost-neutral." If there's any additional cost, however, the pension board is obligated under the original DROP legislation to discontinue the program. But City Council would then be free to create a new DROP program by writing new legislation.

The original DROP was signed into law by former Mayor Ed Rendell, now watching the fray from the safety of the governor's mansion. Rendell, through his spokesperson, Chuck Ardo, declined to get involved in the current DROP debate. "The governor defers to the best judgment of city officials," said Ardo. The governor could not be reached for further comment.

The position of the unions is clear. Union officials say they want to keep the DROP, because they believe the program could be adjusted to be cost neutral. Union officials also point out that there’s long-term savings attached to the program, because in exchange for those big, up-front cash payments, city workers have agreed to collect reduced pension benefits over the long run. The DROP also will have another unforeseen benefit, the program’s defenders say. The program will end up reducing the city payroll through attrition, because not all retiring employees will be replaced, for a projected savings -- estimated by the Street administration -- of $48 million.

Finance Director Davis, however, has already put the City Council on notice that despite the projected long-term savings, she believes the DROP is too costly in the short term to keep.

Davis appeared before the City Council's Committee on Fiscal Stability on Feb. 10, and told council members that "given the negative impact on the pension fund, at this point I would recommend to the mayor that DROP be discontinued." Her remarks were not publicized. When asked how much of an initial negative impact DROP would have on the city pension fund, Davis said there was an unexpected additional cost of $113 million.

Davis, who wasn't around when the DROP was created, also told City Council members that in her opinion, the city doesn't need DROP. "DROP has traditionally been used in areas that had difficulty keeping people in government," Davis told council members. "Philadelphia's experience with a number of long-term employees would indicate that this is not a problem we've had."

Davis told council members that the city pays salaries that are "very competitive," as well as benefits that are "richer than those of the private sector in this area." Because the city does not have a problem retaining its own employees, "I think the city does need to review its widespread use of DROP," Davis said, "because while DROP has afforded the city an opportunity at this point to restructure government, going forward it is a very high price that's extracted on the pension fund for keeping DROP in the way that it was initially implemented."

The city's actuary, Kenneth A. Kent of Mercer Human Resource Consulting in Washington, D.C., said he expects to present a detailed cost analysis to the pension board in September or October. So city officials will have to wait until then to find out what the actuary's final numbers are, and whether they will justify a decision to keep or dump the DROP.

Several actuaries interviewed by City Paper were reluctant to comment publicly on the city program. But one actuary who reviewed DROP records supplied by CP, including a preliminary analysis done by the city's actuary, said he had seen enough to be able to offer some free advice to Mayor Street.

"I'd tell him to kill the thing right away," said Joe Boyle, an enrolled actuary and retirement plan specialist with CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services, Inc. of Plymouth Meeting, a wholly owned subsidiary of Century Business Services, Inc. (The firm, listed on the NASDAQ, has 5,000 employees nationally and more than $550 million in annual revenues.)

The way the sunset legislation for the DROP is written, "[the pension board] has an easy out," Boyle said. Killing the program would be "the responsible thing to do," he said, especially at a time when the city needs to be cutting back on spending. "Their tax base is running out the door," Boyle said. The number of mortgage foreclosures in the city is up, and revenues from pension-fund investments are down. As far as the actuary is concerned, "This is an easy one to get out of," he said. "It's a no-brainer."

The city's union leaders, however, say don't expect them to lay down in an election year, and watch the Street administration take away a popular program that puts millions of dollars of pension benefits where it belongs, in the hands of hard-working veteran city employees.

"Labor is unanimous," said John "Moon" Reilly, a retired firefighter and pension board trustee. "The DROP should be kept forever."



When the city adopted the DROP back in 1999, Vincent DeBlasis was getting ready to turn in his badge. He’s a former chief of detectives who in recent years led the police department’s statistical auditing agency, the Bureau of Quality Assurance.

"I had 40 years in," DeBlasis said. "I was ready to walk out the door." But then DeBlasis did the math on the DROP program and changed his mind about retiring. He said he realized, "If I stayed another four years I would have all this money. So I actually stayed four more years for that little pot of gold."

The DROP is open to city employees of all departments who are at retirement age and have 10 years of service. For police and firefighters, that's either 45 or 50, depending on various retirement plans. For non-uniformed employees, the eligible retirement age is either 55 or 60.

DeBlasis signed a contract with the city, saying he would enroll in the DROP, effective Oct. 1, 1999, and that he agreed to retire sometime during the next 48 months. The contract says the decision to retire is irreversible. Mayor Street, however, recently announced that he was making an exception for Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and First Deputy Police Commissioner Robert J. Mitchell. Street said Johnson and Mitchell are too valuable to let go. (Johnson was due to retire Sept. 30 and collect a DROP benefit of $389,582; Mitchell was scheduled to retire the same day and collect $390,912. City officials wonder whether the case of the top police brass is an isolated one, or whether the Street administration plans to grant further exceptions.)

The day Chief Inspector DeBlasis enrolled in the DROP, the city pension fund treated him like he had just retired. DeBlasis' pension benefits were frozen as of Oct. 1, 1999, when he had 40 years' experience. Even though DeBlasis worked an additional four years, he is listed on city pension records as having only 40 years experience.

For the last four years, while DeBlasis stayed on the job, the city paid out pension benefits every month, based on his 1999 salary, into a tax-deferred account that yields 4.5 percent annual interest, compounded monthly. The day DeBlasis is scheduled to drop off the payroll, Sept. 30, he has the option of collecting his lump-sum benefit of $346,299 (and forking over 20 percent to the federal government), or he can elect to roll the payment over into an IRA.

There was one bonus to signing up for the DROP. The day he entered the program, DeBlasis no longer had to make his biweekly contribution to the pension fund, which for police officers amounts to about 6 percent of their salaries. So it was just like getting a 6-percent raise.

To get into the DROP, however, DeBlasis had to give up something. Police officers are allowed to retire on pensions of up to 100 percent of their salaries. DeBlasis had already reached that level when he signed up for the DROP. But when he agreed to have his pension benefits frozen, he said he gave up increases in his pension over the last four years that amounted to more than 14 percent of his current salary, listed on city pension records last month as $91,820, before a recent raise.

That means DeBlasis will receive an annual pension of $80,000 when he retires, about $16,000 less than the $96,000 he would have been entitled to without the DROP. So in essence, DeBlasis gave up $16,000 a year in long-term benefits to get the up-front cash.

Besides the money issues, however, there's something else for a city employee to consider: quality of life.

"It's a trade-off," DeBlasis said. "I sort of traded four years of my life for the money." It's a gamble. "Right now I'm healthy," DeBlasis said. "If I drop dead tomorrow, I could have been retired for four years. I could have traveled. I could have spent more time with my family."

But the up-front cash was too good to pass up. "I want to travel," DeBlasis said. "I want to do things before I die." And the DROP can make it happen. "It's a godsend for older people like me," DeBlasis said. "It's money I might never have had."

And while DeBlasis may be leaving office with a pot of gold, he's leaving something behind: a living legacy. The chief inspector inspired four sons to become Philadelphia police officers. "They all emulated me," he said proudly. "They all loved being Philadelphia police officers."

DeBlasis would like the DROP to be available when his sons retire. But DeBlasis is also a city taxpayer. "If they lost millions of dollars," he said, "then they should probably stop it. But if they broke even or made money they probably should keep it."



The city’s unions campaigned for the DROP after it had been adopted in cities like Houston, Dallas and Baltimore, and in the state of Louisiana.

John "Moon" Reilly said he fought to bring the DROP program to Philadelphia because the DROP allows the city to hang on to its most valuable employees.

"They were losing their top people," he said. "These people would have retired." With the DROP, "you get four more years of valued service" from the employees, in exchange for money that's already been set aside for the benefit of the workers, Reilly said. "It's a win-win situation for the administration, and for the workers."

Early DROP programs were created for the benefit of police and firefighters only. In Philadelphia, city officials, in a burst of generosity, decided to expand its program to all employees, uniformed and non-uniformed alike.

"We included everybody," Reilly recalled. "It's only fair. We're all in the same boat."

The decision to include non-uniformed employees may have been fair, but in retrospect, because so many of them signed up for the DROP, that decision is also the main reason why the boat is now sinking.

Bill No. 990288-A, which created the experimental DROP program, was approved unanimously by City Council on June 28, 1999.

"We were told originally by the [Rendell] administration that there was no negative to the pension fund," recalls Councilman Jim Kenney, the son of a firefighter, explaining why he voted for the DROP. Kenney remembers being told by the Rendell administration that the DROP was "good for the city and good for the employees, and that it was something that certainly was popular with the employees."

Mayor Rendell, who was about to run for governor, signed the bill into law the same day it was passed by City Council. Neither The Philadelphia Inquirer nor the Daily News took any notice.

The DROP was supposed to be a good deal for taxpayers, as well as employees.

"It is the intent of Council that the design of this test DROP is such that the impact of the plan will not result in more than an immaterial increase in the City's normal cost of annually funding the Retirement System," the DROP legislation says.

The legislation is clear about what to do if the DROP runs into financial trouble. If the pension board, based on the actuary's report, finds "a material increase in the City's normal cost," then the pension board has no choice. "The DROP shall be automatically terminated," the legislation says.

When Mayor Rendell signed the DROP plan into law, the Board of Pensions sent out a letter to eligible city employees, saying the board was ready to accept DROP applications and schedule employees for interviews. "PLEASE BE PATIENT," the letter said. "WE EXPECT SEVERAL HUNDRED APPLICATIONS."

The first week employees were eligible, more than 1,000 signed up for the DROP. The program was even popular with pension board trustees. Joseph Herkness was executive director of the city pension board when the DROP was adopted and has since retired under the DROP. A current pension board trustee, Charles Johnson, a printer in the records department, has already retired under the DROP. Another pension board trustee, city Personnel Director Lynda Orfanelli, is currently enrolled in the DROP.

When the DROP was adopted in June 1999, city officials were sitting on a pension fund that had just been invigorated five months earlier, in January 1999, by a $1.25 billion pension obligation note. The note boosted the funding of the pension fund from about 50 percent to about 75 percent, meaning the city had 75 cents in the pension fund for every dollar the city was obliged to pay out.

City officials say the DROP plan and the pension obligation note had nothing to do with each other, and that it was just a coincidence that the two events happened the same year. The billion-dollar note "was not taken out to finance the DROP," said current city Treasurer Corey Kemp. "That was a separate transaction."

However, Joe Boyle, the CBIZ actuary who looked over some city documents, said it was possible the city was making sure it had plenty of cash on hand in case the DROP program was extended beyond the original four years.

The pension obligation note was a financial bonanza for numerous law firms and financial institutions. Several local influential law firms collected a total of $710,000 in fees, according to Treasurer Kemp, including $250,000 to Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll LLP (the former law firm of David Cohen and Ed Rendell); $125,000 paid to Ronald A. White P.C.; $125,000 to Singley & Associates, LLP; $75,000 to Blank Rome Comiskey & McCauley LLP; $50,000 to Dilworth Paxson Kalish & Kaufman; $50,000 to Silverman Coopersmith & Frimmer; and $35,000 to Duane Morris & Heckscher LLP.

In addition, $14.4 million was paid in commissions to 19 financial underwriters, Kemp said, including Paine Webber, Inc., Goldman Sachs, Janney Montgomery Scott and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

At the time the DROP was instituted, the city pension fund was flush with more than $5 billion in assets. That seemed like more than enough cash to provide pension benefits for 30,895 active employees, and 31,891 retirees and beneficiaries. The stock market was doing great. The pension fund had posted investment returns of 15 percent in 1998 and 11 percent in 1999.

But the pension board made two financial calculations in 1999 that came back to haunt them. They assumed that investments would continue to prosper, and that the city would earn a 9-percent return. The pension board also set the annual interest rate for the DROP's tax-deferred annuity at 4.5 percent, compounded monthly. Both were reasonable estimates at the time, according to actuaries interviewed by City Paper.

Then the stock market went down. The city reaped a 9.5-percent return on the pension fund in 2000, but by fiscal year 2001, the pension fund absorbed a loss of 5.5 percent. The following fiscal year, the pension fund posted another loss of 5.2 percent. This year, the pension fund is rolling along at a positive 1.5-percent rate, as of May 31. But the pension fund, which in 1999 amounted to $5 billion, also had to pay $1.68 billion in benefits to retirees over the last few years. By May 31 of this year, the pension fund was down to $3.8 billion.



Robert LaMontagne, an actuary and principal of Milliman USA of Wayne, said DROP plans were "fairly popular across the nation" when Philadelphia decided to adopt its own DROP. "If you could hang on to some people that you wanted to hang on to for a couple of years at no or minimal cost, that concept was appealing," LaMontagne said.

"Where the rub comes in is, in order to make this work you have to change the behavior of the group," he said, referring to employees in the plan. "If that's not what's happening you're not accomplishing what you set out to do."

That's just what happened in Philadelphia. The original idea of the DROP was to hang on to the most experienced employees, particularly firefighters and police officers. But that's not what happened.

Before the DROP was implemented, firefighters were retiring at an average age of 53.3 years, the same exact age that police officers were retiring, according to city records. Before the DROP, the typical non-uniformed city worker was staying on the job until 60.8 years of age.

But as of July 11, 2001, according to the most recent records available, after two years of the DROP, firefighters were actually staying a little longer on the job, retiring at 53.9 years of age, but police were leaving earlier, at 52.2 years -- the opposite of what the DROP plan had intended.

And non-uniformed employees were leaving their jobs almost a year and a half earlier after the DROP was adopted, retiring at 58.4 years. Possibly because they were in a rush to grab those lump-sum cash payments.

"That was extra liability that we hadn't anticipated," Finance Director Davis said. "[Non-uniformed employees] are the ones that have really swayed the calculations, because their change was so significant."

Davis said she hasn't changed her position on the DROP since she appeared before City Council five months ago. She said she's not worried about the fallout when she casts her vote as chairman of the pension board.

"My responsibility is not to people who want to amass a savings account, but to people who are in the plan now," she said. "Our responsibility as trustees of the pension fund is to the people who depend on that fund for a pension." The DROP plan, she said, is "negative to the fund and it's not something I'm going to endorse." She said the union members on the pension board should join her in voting to kill the DROP.

"I don't know how you have a fiduciary responsibility and not be concerned about the fund," she said.

The pension board is composed of four union representatives and four members of the Street administration. The ninth member of the pension board, Controller Jonathan A. Saidel, often functions as a swing vote. Saidel said, via a spokesperson, that he has not made his mind up on the DROP, but is waiting to see the actuary's report. City Solicitor Nelson Diaz, another administration representative on the trustee board, had the same comment. The other administration representatives on the pension board include Managing Director Philip Goldsmith, who was on vacation and could not be reached, and Personnel Director Orfanelli, who sounded like a no vote.

"It was a different time when this was determined to be a good idea," Orfanelli said. "Nobody figured things were going to tank to the degree they did. Nobody even dreamed of 9/11."

Orfanelli said she had mixed feelings on the DROP. "From the point of view of the employee, it's a financial windfall," she said. Orfanelli signed up for the DROP on Nov. 25, 2002. If she stays in the program the maximum of four years, the personnel director who is paid $110,747 a year will collect $341,722.

"The problem is the way the current ordinance is written," Orfanelli said. She believes the program "has enough positives, but probably not enough to make up for the cost." She also trusts the finance director's judgment. "[Davis] is looking at gaping holes in our budget," Orfanelli said.

On the union side of the pension board, retired firefighter Reilly told City Paper he was speaking on behalf of all four union representatives when he said that city unions were unanimously behind the DROP. Other union members on the pension board, however, did not want to comment publicly. "I'm not talking to the press right now," said Carol G. Stukes of District Council 47. Also not talking was Serena W. Tenant of the Fraternal Order of Police. "It's nothing personal," she said. Charles Johnson, another union member on the pension board, did not return City Paper's phone calls.

No matter what happens to the DROP, the city employees who already signed up for it will collect their cash. Even if the program is terminated, city employees who are eligible for the program have another 120 days to sign up for the DROP. Some 2,000 employees remain eligible. If all the eligible employees decide to enroll in the DROP and stay the maximum four years, and they each collect $130,000, the pension fund would take another $260 million hit.



William McNulty, a deputy commissioner in the fire department, explained why he signed up for the DROP on June 1, 2000. "It’s a rare opportunity for public service employees to accumulate some wealth," he said. McNulty, who joined the DROP when he had 35 years of service, will collect $312,884 if he stays in the program all four years. He knows what he’s going to do with the money. "I’m gonna play the market," he said.

But McNulty said many employees are worried about the future of the DROP. "A lot of folks are talking about it," he said. "They're wondering whether it's going to be continued. Nobody knows for sure, but rumors are it's going down."

He said if the DROP is scrapped, there's only one option left for veteran employees. "You can invent your own DROP program," he said. "You just take your pension and go get another job."

McNulty said it's a shame that city employees may be penalized for something they had no control over. "If the market was doing well, we would not be having this conversation," he said.

Inspector James M. Boyle Jr. of the police homicide unit took a recent break from investigating murders to talk about the DROP. "I was going to stick around until I had 40 years, so it worked out real good for me," Boyle said. The inspector is listed as having 35 years of experience when he signed up for the DROP on May 13, 2002. If he stays in the DROP for the maximum four years, the inspector, whose salary is listed on city records as $80,888, will collect $305,298.

Boyle said the up-front cash offsets the fact that police officers do not receive cost of living increases in their pensions. Boyle knows what he's talking about. He's the son of a police officer who retired in 1969. His father, now 84, is living on a $6,000-a-year pension. But Boyle is also a city taxpayer.

"If they're losing money," he said, "I think they should get rid of it."

Not everybody was willing to talk about the DROP. Arnold Gordon, first assistant district attorney who earns $139,050, didn't want to discuss his maximum DROP payment of $325,583. Neither did another deputy district attorney, Charles Gallagher III, who makes $127,308 in salary and would collect $347,757 if he stays four years in the DROP. Prosecutors are not usually talkative types, an office spokesperson said.

DROP benefits are not based on just salaries; they also include overtime. So some blue-collar city employees enrolled in the DROP will reap lump-sum payments that would make white-collar types envious.

Take Andrew Geiger, a city correctional officer, who did not return City Paper's phone calls. Geiger's salary in 2002 was $37,133, but he also earned $39,394 in overtime, bringing his total compensation to $76,527. So when they calculated his DROP benefits, because of OT, he will collect $266,670 if he stays in the DROP the maximum four years.

Virginio T. Mattia is chief supervisor of the city's voting machines. He had 47 years of experience when he joined the DROP program on Jan. 1, 2000. His annual salary in 2002 was $46,715. But voting machines break down frequently; Mattia earned $55,394 in OT in 2002, bringing his total saalary to $102,109. So when they figured Mattia's DROP benefits, the official will collect a DROP payment of $294,898.

Informed that the city might discontinue the DROP because it's too expensive, Mattia said, "I got in just in time then. Very good. I love it."

Despite the cost, Mattia said he thinks the city should make the DROP permanent. "I think everybody should have the same opportunity as me," he said. "Keep it I say. Give every city employee an opportunity. They deserve it."

Ervin Holmes, a tractor-trailer operator in the water department, had 31 years of experience when he enrolled in the DROP in March. Holmes was paid $38,496 in 2002 for duties that include hauling sludge. He also makes overtime. Holmes earned $20,707 of OT in 2002, bringing his total salary to $59,203. So if he stays in the DROP for four years, Holmes will be paid $171,989.

"I guess I just got lucky," he said. "We was working quite a bit of overtime." Holmes loves the DROP. "I think it's one of the best programs they ever did."

Some people outside of city government aren't so sure. Ed Schwartz is a former city councilman who chairs a tax reform commission that's due to report to the city this November. Schwartz said the city needs to make "a serious review" of the DROP, to see if should be discontinued. "What has developed shows that these so-called cost-saving measures need to be approached with great care, or we end up spending more than we bargained for."



There are other issues with the DROP beside cost, such as an unprecedented brain drain at City Hall. About 620 employees in the program -- including DeBlasis -- are scheduled to officially retire and drop off the city payroll the same day: Sept. 30. To put that figure in perspective, during all of 2002, a total of 668 employees retired from the city. The effect of the DROP is already being felt. Because of accumulated days off, some employees scheduled to retire Sept. 30 are already leaving their jobs, but staying on the payroll. Like Chief Inspector DeBlasis, whose last day of work was July 4.

A breakdown of employees in the DROP shows that the city is scheduled to lose 860 police officers during the next four years, and 567 firefighters. The streets department will lose 194 employees; the department of human services, 149; the health department, 145.

City officials say they have been preparing for a mass exodus of their most experienced employees. Emergency services are not expected to suffer. The city plans to replace every departing police officer or firefighter, but only one out of every two non-uniformed employees.

Some employees, however, say the DROP exodus will have an effect on services. When City Councilman Kenney came up with a plan to extend the maximum period that city employees could stay in the DROP from four to 10 years, Captain Edward F. Stinson of the city police department wrote Kenney to say that delaying the effects of the DROP was a good idea.

"There will be hundreds of police officers leaving the department within a short time period," Stinson wrote Kenney on Dec. 24. "This drain of experienced officers will leave the residents of our city in a vulnerable position. In addition to the police department, the fire department and the other city departments will be quickly depleted."

Union officials, however, were divided over the Kenney proposal to extend the DROP because a number of union members were already counting on raises and promotions when the most senior employees left their jobs. So the proposal went nowhere.

Even if the city pension board votes to dump the DROP, it may not be the last of the program. Some enterprising City Council member who's a friend of labor could still decide to resurrect the program, with new legislation that would adjust the program to be less expensive. Somebody like Councilman Kenney, who already tried to hold a hearing on a bill to make the DROP permanent. He said it would be a shame if the city allowed a plan that was so popular with employees to be done away with.

Kenney wanted to schedule a vote on the DROP before the election, but union officials sent letters, saying the time wasn't right for a vote. Kenney disagrees. "The time to do it was prior to the election, not after it," Kenney said.

He's still waiting to hear from union officials. "I'm still willing to resurrect [the DROP] for the fall," he said, "but I need some direction."

Even if the DROP is scrapped, Chief Inspector DeBlasis collects his cash. And what does he plan to do with the money? "I’ve been a rowhouse boy all my life," DeBlasis said. He’s thinking of buying a new house in Feasterville, or Southampton. "I’m looking for a little rancher," he said. A lawn to mow. He might even buy a new car and do some traveling. But first he’s going to take his whole family, including all the kids and grandkids, on a Caribbean cruise.

"You only live once," he said. "I started this job in 1959 and the salary was $4,300 for walking a beat at 52nd and Market sts.," he said. "Now I'm gonna get $6,600 a month to go fishing."

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