Research & Background Information on Dispatcher Retirement
Index to Reference and educational info on Dispatcher Retirement: The information below is background information to learn more about the dispatcher retirement issue.
History and Background (Law-Case)
Documents and Letters
Senate 1603 Filed by Senator Tolman – Mar 05
Letter to PERAC by MCSA asking they support Senate 1603
Draft Letter to a Retirement Board from Dispatchers Seeking Group 2 (download this Word Document and change to meet your specific operation)
Municlass Manual from Civil Service (1974) and 1987 DPA Municlass Manual
Pioneer Institute Study 10-08 (critical of the Mass. Public Pensions System).
There is wide variability in the retirement status of Massachusetts dispatchers. Currently, persons working as dispatchers are classified into one of three legislatively proscribed retirement groups depending on the determination or practice of various state, county, or municipal retirement boards.
Persons holding the title of Police Officer or Firefighter who are working as full-time dispatchers are recognized as members of retirement “Group 4”. A study by MCSA in 2003 revealed that there were over 150 Police officers who worked full-time as dispatchers, most alongside non-sworn dispatchers who performed all the same duties. Another 800-1000 or more Police Officers work occasional shifts as dispatchers either as fill-in for sick or absent non-sworn dispatchers, or because – in increasingly fewer towns – there are no non-sworn dispatchers at all.
Persons holding various dispatcher titles (e.g., Emergency Telecommunications Dispatcher, Fire Alarm Operator, Emergency Dispatcher, etc.) are recognized by some retirement boards as members of retirement “Group 2”.
All other persons working as dispatchers (regardless of title) are recognized as members of “Group 1”.
MCSA believes that non-sworn dispatchers are members of retirement Group 2 because dispatchers perform the duties of “Fire or Police Signal Operators”. Many Retirement Boards agree with this view. The 11,000-plus Mass Police Association has recently passed a resolution supporting Group 2 status for dispatchers.
Massachusetts Retirement Groups
B. Massachusetts Retirement Groups Summary
Massachusetts places state and local employees in one of four retirement membership groups based on job title. An over-simplified view of group membership is as follows:
Local police and fire plus corrections officers are in Group 4, state police are in group 3, a miscellaneous collection of public safety-related job titles are in Group 2, and everyone else is in Group 1.
The actual language is here: MGL Ch 32, Sect 3 (Membership), (2) (g) directs that retirement boards “shall classify each member in one of the following groups”:
Group 1. — Officials and general employees including clerical, administrative and technical workers, laborers, mechanics and all others not otherwise classified.
Group 2. — Public works building police; permanent watershed guards and permanent park police; University of Massachusetts police; employees of the Massachusetts Port Authority, comprising guards, guard sergeants, head guard and chief of waterfront police; officials and employees of the department of public safety having police powers; employees of a municipal department who are employed as fire or police signal operators or signal maintenance repairmen; ambulance attendants of a municipal department who are required to respond to fires and perform duties assigned to them; employees of a city or town who are employed as licensed electricians and elevator maintenance men employed by a county; employees of Cushing hospital; employees of the trial court of the commonwealth who hold the position of chief probation officer, assistant chief probation officer, probation officer in charge or probation officer, chief court officer, assistant chief court officer or court officer; officers and employees of the general court having police powers; employees of the commonwealth or of any county, regardless of any official classification, except the sheriff, superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistant deputy superintendent and correction officers of county correctional facilities, whose regular and major duties require them to have the care, custody, instruction or other supervision of prisoners; and employees of the commonwealth or of any county whose regular and major duties require them to have the care, custody, instruction or other supervision of parolees or persons who are mentally ill or mentally defective or defective delinquents or wayward children and employees of Cushing hospital.
Group 3. — Officers and inspectors of the department of state police referred to in section twenty-six, who shall be retired and receive retirement allowances as provided for in said section and in sections six and seven, anything in sections one to twenty-eight, inclusive, to the contrary notwithstanding.
Group 4. — Division of law enforcement of the department of fisheries, wildlife and recreational vehicles; conservation officer of the city of Haverhill having duties similar to a law enforcement officer of the department of fisheries, wildlife and recreational vehicles; employees of the Massachusetts Port Authority at the General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport, comprising permanent crash crewmen, fire control men, assistant fire control men; members of police and fire departments not classified in Group 1; any police officer of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority; employees whose regular compensation is paid by the United States from funds allocated to the Massachusetts National Guard and who are regularly and permanently employed under the control of the military department of the commonwealth and whose duties in such employment require substantially all normal working hours and whose continued employment is based upon federal recognition in the Massachusetts National Guard; employees of a municipal gas or electric generating or distribution plant who are employed as linemen, electric switchboard operators, electric maintenance men, steam engineers, boiler operators, firemen, oilers, mechanical maintenance men, and supervisors of said employees who shall include managers and assistant managers; employees of the Massachusetts Port Authority who are employed as licensed electricians, utility technicians, steam engineers, watch engineers, boiler operators, or steam firemen, and supervisors of said employees, at an electrical generating or distribution plant; employees of the department of correction who are employed at any correctional institution or prison camp under the control of said department and who hold the position of correction officer, female correction officer, industrial instructor, recreation officer, assistant industrial shop manager, industrial shop manager, assistant to the supervisor of industries, supervisor of industries, senior correction officer, senior female correction officer, supervising correction officer, supervising female correction officer, prison camp officer, senior prison camp officer, supervising prison camp officer, assistant deputy superintendent; employees of the parole board who hold the position of parole officer or parole supervisor; chief of security for the University of Massachusetts medical school or supervising identification agent; employees who hold the position of state hospital steward in the department of correction; the sheriff, superintendent, assistant superintendent, assistant deputy superintendent and correction officers of county correctional facilities; district attorneys, assistant district attorneys who have been employed in such capacity for ten years or more; the chief fire warden and the district fire wardens in the executive office of environmental affairs and the fire marshal of the department of fire services in the executive office of public safety; but the fire marshal shall have been a member of group 4 for ten years or have had ten years or more employment at the department of fire services or its predecessor agencies, the division of fire prevention and the Massachusetts firefighting academy, before being eligible for benefits under this section.”
C. Meaning of Signal Operator Language
a. Three general job functions are covered by the phrase “fire or police signal operators or signal maintenance repairman”:
i. Fire Signal Operators
ii. Police Signal Operators
iii. Signal Maintenance Repairmen
b. Signal Maintenance Repairmen are generally persons who repair fire, police, traffic or other signaling equipment and cabling plant. They are not dispatchers, although in some city jurisdictions they may fill-in for dispatchers under some conditions.
c. Fire Signal Operators are persons who receive, dispatch and manage signals from fire-related incidents and can be locally titled Fire Alarm Operators, Emergency Telecommunications Dispatchers, Emergency Dispatchers, Fire Dispatchers, Public Safety Dispatchers as well as other titles.
d. Police Signal Operators are persons who receive, dispatch and manage signals of police-related incidents and can be locally titled Police Alarm Operators, Emergency Telecommunications Dispatchers, Emergency Dispatchers, Police Dispatchers, Public Safety Dispatchers as well as other titles.
e. A reading of the titles included in Group 2 reveals that, on balance, they represent the other sub-groups that – combined with Groups 4 and 3 – fill out the ranks of the public safety and criminal justice system (e.g., court personnel, probation officers, other corrections personnel, electricians, parole personnel, ambulance attendants, etc.). Thus it is logical and consistent that public safety dispatchers – the true first-first responders – are included in this list.
“Police Signal Operators” and “Fire Signal Operators” are archaic titles for dispatchers. However, retirement boards need a way to understand that dispatchers (whatever their title may be) perform the duties of police or fire signal operators.
One approach is to describe the various signaling systems that dispatchers are trained and required to operate. These signaling systems vary from dispatch center to dispatch center, but generally include wired fire alarm and police burglar systems, central station police and fire alarm systems, E911 telephone equipment, radio emergency signaling systems, police “teletype” computer systems, mobile data systems, and so forth.
Here is an example of an explanation of the many signaling systems operated by dispatchers at one agency that operates a combined dispatch and 911 center:
Sample Language Presented to a Retirement Board (details will vary by each dispatch center depending on the number and type of signaling systems present):
Over 15 complex, electrically operated computer, radio and alarm signaling systems are operated by Center personnel, including supervisors. Thus, all personnel will operate the current fire and police signaling systems, plus new signaling systems that are being acquired with the Center. All personnel will receive training in the technical and procedural operation of these systems. All personnel will – as a regular and important part of each shift’s activity – monitor these systems, operate them when required, perform routine testing and maintenance, and notify the appropriate personnel when equipment needs repair or major maintenance.
This equipment is located in special equipment racks in dispatcher console positions, in the fire alarm circuit consoles, in wall-mounted panels, and in 5 other special rooms throughout the Emergency Communications Center building: the Telephone/Alarm Room, the Electrical Room, the Generator Room, the Computer Room, the Radio Control Room, and the Equipment Room.
Police and Fire Signaling-related Duties of the Emergency Communications Center.
All of the personnel in the Emergency Communications Center operate, monitor and manage a wide variety of complex, electrically operated police and fire signaling systems. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
a. The City’s Fire Alarm Signaling System
Based on direct current signaling, this large scale system monitors signals from fire alarm boxes and building master boxes over city-maintained copper circuits. Over 800 box locations are in use. One master circuit entrance panel, 21 separate “Form Four” circuit panels, 3 alarm receiver/transmitters systems (based on Digitize technology), and other equipment is operated, tested and managed by the Center’s personnel. Personnel receive specific training in this equipment and are required to operate it routinely as well as perform maintenance and testing functions on a regular basis.
b. The City’s Police Alarm System
This telephone and direct-wired circuit-based system (using Keltron Central Station technology) signals Center operators when city buildings are entered, when special secure rooms are entered, or when other alarm conditions result. Over 60 locations are monitored and tests are made on a periodic basis of both circuits and signaling equipment. Operators are trained to handle line trouble and system fault conditions, to contact appropriate building personnel and to immediately dispatch police personnel when alarm signals are received.
c. The City’s Emergency Call-Box Signaling System
The City maintains special Emergency Call Boxes in selected public places as an aid to citizens who need to signal for assistance.. Operators are trained to receive calls from these devices as well as check on their status and report operational problems.
d. The City’s 800 Mhz Trunked Radio System’s Emergency Signaling system
The City’s radio systems have built-in emergency signaling capabilities. These include the ability of any radio user to activate his or her Emergency Distress signal which are currently received on three separate console systems. Operators are trained to recognize these signals, identify the channel and unit ID of the signaling party, and immediately alert responding personnel as well as try to reach the signaling party. They can reset the emergency signal system, change the signaling display mode, and perform tests to see that any radio is properly on-the-air.
e. The City’s Fire Station Alerting System
The City alerts its fire companies to respond to fire and EMS events through a “Zetron” and back-up “Bell Circuit” signaling system. This computer-controlled, direct-current, directly wired system operates through a master panel, 5 primary circuit panels, 5 backup circuit panels, 8 station receivers, and a master console unit. This equipment is critical to the immediate dispatch of fire apparatus in the event of a fire or medical emergency.
f. The City’s Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) System
The City’s CAD system is at the heart of dispatcher activity. This large-scale system has interfaces to the Digitize Fire Alarm Signaling and E911 systems such that transmissions from these systems are automatically received by CAD and call-record information pre-entered into CAD screens. In addition, the CAD system drives a Fire Station Printing system such that fire apparatus get a print-out of run information within 12 seconds of CAD dispatch.
g. The City’s Enhanced 911 Telephone System
Enhanced 911 technology enables Cambridge residents to have their exact street address, telephone billing name, calling telephone number, and other facts displayed on a special computer screen within 1-3 seconds of their 911 call being answered at Emergency Communications. This system allows persons who cannot speak because of a handicap or medical condition, who do not speak English, or who are very young children to signal Emergency Communications of their need for assistance without having to utter a word. Operators are trained in the use of this complex equipment by special state trainers who test and certify their abilities.
h. TDD Signaling Systems (for hearing impaired residents)
Additional state-provided TDD equipment was installed in 1996 to allow hearing impaired city residents to use TDD/TYY devices to communicate with the Emergency Communications Center over both 911 and 7-digit lines. Operators are trained in the use of this TDD equipment by special state trainers who will test and certify their abilities.
i. Criminal Justice Information System
The CJIS computer system is located in and operated by Emergency Communications personnel. This system has various police signaling and “telegraph” capabilities as it is the primary means that the City notifies surrounding towns, the regional area, or the entire country of a fleeing felon, a major emergency, a stolen vehicle, or other primary alert conditions that should immediately be sent to other jurisdictions. Operators receive training in this extremely complex system and are required to pass an examination before operating a terminal.
j. Mobile Data System
Most police cars have laptop computers installed that police officers use to query CJIS databases, send messages to each other and dispatchers, and perform various records management functions. A special interface with CAD signals officers with detailed dispatch information and they in turn can enter information about the activities performed at an incident scene. The system is used to silently signal dispatch information (in lieu of radio broadcasts) on certain types of incidents such as selected bank alarms.
k. Other Signaling Systems
Several other systems are used for signaling purposes:
Operators use an alphanumeric pager system to notify emergency personnel (e.g., the Hazmat team, the 911 Director, the Police Chief, the Fire Chief, the City Manager, the Mayor, the SARA officer) of special or emergency conditions.
The regional police radio and fire radio systems allow operators to alert and call in police and fire units from surrounding cities when Mutual Aid is required. Various tones alert surrounding communities, who then receive voice messages for assistance.
Special equipment allows the victims of domestic abuse to activate a belt or packet alarm that will signal Center operators who can then dispatch emergency assistance.
Dozens of Central Stations (alarm companies) report emergency alarm conditions at buildings in the City. These alarms are communicated to the Center who then send emergency personnel.
l. Electrical Equipment Operation by Center Personnel
The Center has advanced power management and backup power systems including a 100 KW Generator capable of operating all Center electrical equipment in any power-outage system; five Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems for the support of various systems; a DC Power Supply for the Fire Alarm system, Voltage Control regulators, and other power supply and power control devices. Operators and supervisors are expected to go around the Center facility and monitor these systems, periodically note their status, take appropriate action when problems are noted (or devices fail to operate properly).
DOWNLOAD this document and modify it to suit your needs; then submit it to your Retirement Board for Group 2 approval.
F. Jurisdictions That Have Found Dispatchers to be in Retirement Group 2
1. Cambridge Emergency Communications
Cambridge EC is a city department that operates a combined 911 Emergency Communications Center that dispatches police, fire, and EMS for the City of Cambridge. In 1996 the Fire Alarm office and the Police Dispatch office were combined into the ECC and most personnel were re-titled as Emergency Communications Dispatchers after discussions with the state Human Resources Division (who recommended the ETD title series rather than the “Fire and Police Signal Operator” title that was requested by the city).
In 1997, the Emergency Communications Department with approval from the Personnel office and the City Manager applied to the Cambridge Retirement Board to classify ETD’s (as well as Fire Alarm Operators and Communications Supervisors) as Group 2 titles. The presentation made to the Board contained much of the material listed in section C. above.
In late 1997, the Retirement Board voted a “supplemental rule” to approve four titles as “replacing” the Group 2 Fire and Police Signal Operator title listed in Group 2. The Director of the Board then wrote to the state Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) asking for approval of this local rule.
In May of 1998, PERAC approved the Cambridge request, in part. They approved the ETD and Fire Alarm Operator titles, but denied the Communications Supervisor positions. It was not clear why PERAC denied the supervisor positions since they perform all of the functions of the ETD’s plus their supervisory duties.
2. Barnstable County Communications
Barnstable County Retirement Board found dispatchers in the County-run regional 911 and dispatch center to be members of Group 2.
3. Belmont Police
Dispatchers and Dispatch supervisors in the combined police-fire-EMS comm center in the Belmont Police station have historically been considered Group 2 members by the Belmont Retirement Board. The dispatch supervisor retired recently as a member of Group 2.
4. Andover Police
5. Boston Fire Alarm
Various dispatcher and dispatch supervisor titles in Boston Fire Alarm have historically been members of Group 2 according to the Boston Retirement Board.
6. Lexington Police
Lexington police and fire dispatchers are deemed to be Group 2 members because the titles of Police and Fire Dispatchers are the titles given to the position of Police or Fire Signal Operator. See the 1998 Lexington PERAC Letter from PERAC to the Lexington Retirement Board. See also the Lexington Nov 1999 Retirement Meeting minutes of the Lexington Retirement Board when they found dispatchers to be members of Group 2.
7. Somerville Fire Alarm
Historically treated as Group 2
8. Chelsea Communications
Various dispatchers have enjoyed Group 2 retirement status
9. Brookline Police Communications
This group has been treated as Group 2 as well. They have used the Police and Fire Signal Operator title.
10. Town of Wrentham
Town officials have found for Group 2 status in February 2005 (Town Administrator and Police and Fire Chiefs) and are awaiting word from the Norfolk County Retirement Board.
G. Legislative History and Case Law about Fire or Police Signal Operators
1. Legislative History
The Group 2 title language about fire or police signal operators was passed into law in 1968. Wayne Hartwell, a researcher at the Social Law Library, has researched the legislative history of this Group 2 title and it can be viewed here Legistative History of Signal Operators (its a large 2.4MB PDF file).
Here are the results of this legislative history summarized:
John J. Long (D-Fall River) filed petition 395 in the House in 1968 to classify fire and police signal repairmen into Group 2.
a House amendment was made to add signal operators (by Mr. Smith of Lawrence). Interestingly, Mr. Smith was state Rep. Lawrence P. Smith who died in January of 2002 at the age of 82. His first job was in Fire Alarm Headquarters; he knew the difference between signal maintenance repairmen and the signal operators who worked as fire dispatchers in Lawrence in the late 1960’s.
the bill went to the Senate where another amendment was made to add licensed electricians
the bill then was enacted by the legislature and sent to Governor Volpe
the Governor returned it with a recommendation to make a technical amendment.
the legislature did not accept the amendment and the bill was enacted and sent to the Governor
the Governor vetoed the bill saying in part “I have been advised that fire and police signal operators, maintenance repairmen, and licensed electricians in cities and towns, do not have positions such as were contemplated for special consideration for early retirement.”
the House overrode the Governor’s veto 151-51 on July 8, 1968 and with the Senate’s concurrence on July 9, 1968 the bill became law as Chapter 516 of the Acts of 1968:
MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL LAWS ANNOTATED PART I. ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT TITLE IV. CIVIL SERVICE, RETIREMENTS AND PENSIONS CHAPTER 32. RETIREMENT SYSTEMS AND PENSIONS CONTRIBUTORY RETIREMENT SYSTEM FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYEES § 3. Membership
… 1968, c. 641, was approved July 16, 1968. St. 1968, c. 516, in Group 2 of par. (g) of subd. (2), inserted “, employees of cities and towns who are employed as fire and police signal operators or maintenance repairmen or as licensed electricians”. St. 1968 S, c. 516, returned by the Governor to the House of Representatives with his objections thereto, was passed by the House of Representatives on July 8, 1968, and by the Senate on July 9, 1968, and thereby has “the force of a law”. St. 1968, c. 542, § 1, approved July 9, 1968, …
What is clear from the legislative history is that there are three sets of separate positions included in the Act: signal repairmen, signal operators, and licensed electricians. All have distinct and different duties.
Historically, the first group of dispatchers to seek and gain actual retirements under Group 2’s signal operator titles were persons in the position of Fire Alarm Operators in many of the larger cities in eastern Mass. These persons are clearly dispatchers and the same positions exist today in many dispatch centers. Later persons who were Emergency Telecommunications Dispatchers and other dispatcher titles were approved for Group 2 by various retirement boards as well as PARAC.
2. Case Law
A fairly recent Contributory Retirement Board case, “Kenneth Rapoza v. State Retirement Board”, CR-98-609, 11/12/1998, strongly supports the Group 2 claim by municipal PSAP dispatchers, although not for the appellant Kenneth Rapoza who was a state employee.
Kenneth Rapoza was a UMass (at Dartmouth) police dispatcher who claimed that he should be classified in Group 2. UMass police officers are specifically included in the Group 2 list. The Administrative Magistrate (Robert Tierney) in the Rapoza case found against Rapoza for a variety of reasons. First, he was not a UMass Police Officer (also a title in Group 2); rather he was a civilian dispatcher. Second, he was not “an employee of a municipal department”; rather he was state employee. And third, he did not do a variety of cabling and related electrical work that the Magistrate believed was related to the work of signal operators and signal maintenance repairmen..
Unfortunately – with all due respect – Magistrate Tierney was not familiar with the major difference between “fire or police signal operators” and “signal maintenance repairmen”. The former are persons who work inside dispatch centers operating signaling equipment, whereas the latter work outside repairing fire alarm and other signaling cable, boxes, and related equipment. Tierney’s language in Rapoza says “Among the hazards associated with the duties of a signal operator or maintenance repairman were traffic problems, live electrical equipment, inclement weather, gases, installation of overhead and underground cables, cable splicing, and the maintenance and installation of police and fire boxes.” This description of duties accurately describes the work of a signal maintenance repairmen who typically works for municipal fire, wires, or electrical departments, but it fails to distinguish the quite different duties of “signal operators” who never have and never will perform the duties of “signal maintenance repairmen”.
Rapoza is thus seriously flawed in its basic understanding of the fundamental differences between signal operators and signal maintenance repairmen. Contrast that with the distinction between the positions as observed by Rep. Smith in 1968 (he added signal operators as a separate title), Governor Volpe (he listed signal operators separately from both signal maintainers and licensed electricians) and the actual 1968 statutory language which also lists the position separately.
However, in another paragraph, Rapoza goes on to make a very strong case for Group 2 status for municipal dispatchers by reference to the following statement from PARA Commissioner McGlynn (head of the predecessor agency of PARAC).:
“… the definition of Group 2 includes “employees of a municipal department who are employed as fire or police signal operators or signal maintenance repairmen”. He [McGlynn] went on to state that if the uniformed central dispatcher is the title given by a town to the position of fire or police signal operator or signal maintenance repairman, it would be appropriate to classify the holder of the position in Group 2.”
The uniformed central dispatcher in towns across the Commonwealth is exactly the class of employees who are appropriate to be classified in Group 2.
H. MCSA Actions to Clarify Status of Dispatchers in Group 2
As discussed at the Nov 19, 2005 MCSA Workshop afternoon session on Retirement (chaired by Jack Collins, Esq) the following actions are suggested.
1. Pass a law clarifying Group 2 membership for dispatchers and dispatch supervisors.
General agreement was reached that amending the Group 2 membership list language was the most direct and effective means of clarifying the issue. The following language was recommended:
[the Group 2 membership list] is hereby amended by inserting after the words “signal repairmen” the following words: “an employee of a municipal, county, or commonwealth police, fire or communications department who is employed as a civilian dispatcher, dispatch supervisor or telecommunicator of fire, police or emergency medical services.”
This language is hoped to be included in a reformulated version of Senate 1604 which is being re-filed prior to Dec 1, 2004 by Senator Tolman, current co-chair of the legislature’s Joint Public Service Committee. The purpose of the revised wording is to insure that:
a. municipal police-fire-EMS safety dispatchers who work for the new city/town communications departments are also included not just thoese who work for police and fire departments,
b. that state police dispatchers are also included (especially as they handle wireless 911 calls and work in some large regional dispatcher centers), and
c. that dispatch supervisors are also included (they all dispatch and work console positions PLUS handle first-line supervision responsibilities).
Passage of the bill is said to require the support of the Senate leadership (Senate President Robert Travaglini of Boston, Reverse, Winthrop, and Cambridge), House leadership (House Speaker Salvatore Dimasi of Boston), the chairman and members of the 2005 Joint Committee on Public Service, the chairman and members of the 2005 Joint Committee on Public Safety, both Ways and Means Committees and their staffs, and various other committees, legislators, and legislative staff members. In addition, the support of the Governor, Lt. Governor, and relevant staff is needed.
Passage of the legislation will require dispatchers to organize and work together as never before. Dispatchers have a natural advantage that other groups do not have: they are in (or dispatch for) every town in the state, everyone recognizes their importance to public safety, but they are very few in number anywhere so the costs of retirement are relatively less for any one retirement board. In addition, dispatchers are not asking for something that is not deserved; they are already in Group 2 just under archaic language that some retirement boards have trouble understanding applies to the modern dispatcher.
The attendees signed up to participate in retirement efforts.
2. Get a PERAC ruling on Group 2 for all dispatchers
PERAC (the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission) has issued some letters approving the Supplemental rules passed by various local and county retirement boards in findings that dispatchers were in Group 2. In 2005, PERAC is thought to be issuing a variety of rules and it is hoped that one rule will deal with Group 2 for dispatchers. MCSA supports a statewide PERAC rule clarifying that dispatchers and line dispatch supervisors (of various titles) do all indeed perform the duties of Fire or Police Signal Operators. This action would simply confirm the finding mentioned above by a former head of PERAC’s predecessor agency:
“… the definition of Group 2 includes “employees of a municipal department who are employed as fire or police signal operators of signal maintenance repairmen”. He [McGlynn] went on to state that if the uniformed central dispatcher is the title given by a town to the position of fire or police signal operator or signal maintenance repairman, it would be appropriate to classify the holder of the position in Group 2.”
This effort will require the hiring of legal representation to work with PERAC staff attorneys, the Director, and the PERAC Board.
3. Continue with individual agency efforts to get dispatchers and line supervisors classified into Group 2 by a particular retirement board.
There are over 100 retirement boards in the state (the state retirement board itself, various other state and regional retirement boards, 8 county retirement boards, and many municipal retirement boards); see full list here. Also see the Mass Retirees page here.
All 100+ retirement boards, except two, consist of 5 members: an ex-officio member, an appointed member, 2 elected members, and a fifth member chosen by the other 4 members.
Groups of dispatchers within a local agency are still encouraged to pursue Group 2 status with their own retirement board, although they are strongly encouraged to consult with MCSA prior to any submission. Poorly conceived submissions made without any legal representation in the past have resulted in Group 1 findings (e.g., where dispatchers claimed to be in Group 4 because they were involved in the custody of prisoners…).
List of dispatchers and dispatch supervisors in retirement interest group
I. Other Resources and Links
PERAC – the agency that oversees all retirement boards in Massachusetts. It has a 7 member board and a staff. As of Nov 15, 2015 the Board is chaired by Phillip Y Brown Esq. and includes the Auditor Suzanne M Bump Vice-Chairman, Kate Fitzpatrick Town Manager Needham, Elizabeth Fontaine , Jon Langen, James Machado (Fall River Police/MPA), and Robert McCarthy (Prof FF of Ma) Don Marquis (former Arlington Town Manager). The staff Executive Director is Joe Connarton.
Division of Administrative Law Appeals – you can appeal a decision of a retirement board to this special agency (you are advised to know what you are doing or have competent legal representation).
Mass Association of Public Pension Attorneys – mostly lawyers who represent retirement boards, but some also represent employees.
Lawmaking in Massachusetts – quick guide to the technical details of filing and enacting a bill in the Mass. Legislature.
Status of County Government in Massachusetts – status of county government.
Some decisions of CRAB and courts about this matter:
Gaw v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board, 4 Mass. App.Ct. 250, 345 N.E. 2nd 908, Mass App Ct 1976, April 16, 1976. (Mr. Gaw, manager of Reading Municipal Electric Light, was ultimately deemed in Group 1 and not in Group 4 with various Reading electric employees because such managers were, at that time, not included in Group 4).
Rapoza: CRAB, Docket CR-998-609, November 12, 1998, Kenneth Rapoza v. State Retirement Board.
Summary: Rapoza, a UMASS state employee dispatcher, was found not to be in Group 2 because he did not perform hazardous electrical duties like those performed by signal maintenance repairman. Comment: case fails to recognize and distinguish the long-standing historical difference among signal operators and signal maintainers.
Adams: CRAB, Docket CR-00-178, CR-00-233, May 4, 2001, Appeal of Mark Adams, et al, Petitioners v Worcester Retirement Board, Respondant. (lawyer for petitioners was Michael Manning of NAGE).
Summary: Worcester dispatchers and FAOs were all put into Group 2 by the Worcester Retirement Board after center consolidation in 1991. Then they were reclassified into Group 1 by WRB around Feb 2000. The dispatchers appealed, and the CRAB magistrate found that the 1998 Rapoza CRAB decision had decided the matter and that they were properly in Group 1.
Retirement Bd. of Tauton v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Bd., 56 Mass. App.Ct. 914, 778 N.E.2d 536, Mass App Ct 2002, Nov 12, 2002. (Mr. Blain, manager of the Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant, was found to be in Group 4 because in 1993 the legislature amended Group 4 to provide that Group 4 supervisors shall also include managers and assistant managers of Group 4 employees).
McGerigle: CRAB, Docket CR-02-695 through CR-02-707, May 21, 2004, Laura mcGerigle, et, al, v Newton Retirement Board, (lawyer for petitioners was Wayne Soini of AFSME Council 93).
Summary: Newton FAO’s originally Group 2 and police dispatchers Group 1. After consolidation in 1993, Newton Emergency Telecommunications Dispatchers were all put into Group 2 by labor contract. Then, after Raposa, in May 2002, the Newton Retirement Board put all ETD’s back down into Group 1. The dispatchers appealed, and the CRAB magistrate found that the 1998 Rapoza CRAB decision had decided the matter and that they were properly in Group 1.