Dave Shoff was set to retire in six months. Now he's unemployed, without a pension
November 06, 2008
Hartford Zoning Enforcement Official Dave Shoff was vacationing in Florida on Oct. 24 when he read the news online that 56 city workers had been laid off.
The layoffs were one of three measures the city took to deal with a projected $8 million budget deficit this year. In addition, 30 vacant positions, previously budgeted, will go unfilled, and 46 workers took the city up on an offer of early retirement.
The reduction of 132 positions is expected to save the city more than $6 million in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, when the deficit is projected to swell to as much as $40 million.
After 19-and-a-half years with the city, the 53-year-old Shoff was just six months away from retirement, and a pension of about $40,000 a year, or 60 percent of his $68,000 salary. Although on vacation, he was monitoring developments back home. He wanted to make sure he didn't miss the chance to get out early if the city bridged the gap that was keeping him from taking the offer on the table.
"I didn't qualify for the retirement incentive. Six months later was when I had 20 years," said Shoff. "I thought they would do something to help out a seniority person like myself."
A few days before he was to fly home, Shoff e-mailed his assistant and a friend, asking if there was any news about layoffs in his department, Development Services. There was no reply.
"I'm just sitting there by myself, watching TV, waiting for something to come up on the computer," said Shoff. "Nothing ever does."
Then Shoff got a call from Elizabeth Kavanah, president of his union, CSEA/SEIU Local 2001, telling him his position had been eliminated, and that he was out of work.
"I said, 'Oh boy,'" said Shoff. "That leaves me with two kids in college, one just started this year out in Arizona. I have a car note, the whole thing."
Sarah Barr, director of communications for Mayor Eddie Perez, wrote in an e-mail that it was her understanding that Shoff is trying to use his military service time to bridge the gap that would allow him to retire. She said the city wished him well, and that "if the Pension Commission rules in his favor, the City will do what it can to expedite the process."
But Shoff said he has not appealed to the Pension Commission because he has been told in the past that he can't use his military service to bridge a gap to retirement. On the advice of his supervisor, he did apply for early retirement when he returned from vacation, but the fact remains that he doesn't qualify.
Shoff is the city's only Zoning Enforcement Official, and the only person in his department who is certified by the Connecticut Association of Zoning Enforcement Officials, a course he completed in December 1995. In his capacity as ZEO, he was responsible for making sure residents and businesses complied with the city's zoning regulations.
Shoff said he's not sure why he was singled out to be laid off.
"There's no rhyme or reason to what's going on," he said. "It wouldn't do any good to ask, 'Why me?'"