Retirement Board Profile: Framingham

2007 MAR - In addition to representing members before the state and federal governments, Association officials work closely with local leaders to represent retiree interests at the municipal level.

 

Association leaders rely heavily upon local retirement board members
and staff to assist us on the ground at the municipal level. Beyond
being our eyes and ears locally, retirement board members, especially
the two elected members, are our go-to guys in terms of protecting the
rights of local retirees.

Nowhere has that close relationship with local retirement board
members been more important than in the Town of Framingham, where the
Town Meeting is notoriously hostile towards public retirees.

Most recently, the Town Meeting rejected a bid to adopt the veteran’s bonus benefit for accidental disability retirees.

In the lore of Association history, is the battle that ensued in
Framingham during the 1998 effort to accept the new COLA law locally.
At the time, COLA’s had been paid on the first $9,000 of one’s pension,
rather than the current $12,000 base.

“Framingham is still governed by a town meeting, which has been
notably difficult to deal with. In 1998, we nearly lost the article to
raise the COLA base after it was rejected by town meeting,” commented
Association President Ralph White. “Due to our strong relationship with
the retirement board members, as well as a very active group of local
retirees, we were able to get it adopted at a special town meeting
later in the year.

“Having an effective retirement board, who have a good
understanding of the retirement law and are willing to fight for their
members is key. Later this year, we hope that the board will be
successful in bringing the Vets Bonus back before town meeting for a
new vote.”

Largest Town

With over 67,000 residents, Framingham is the largest town in
the Commonwealth. It is bordered by Southborough, Marlborough,
Sherborn, Ashland, Natick, Wayland, and Sudbury, an area heavily
populated by public retirees.

As stated above, the town is governed by town meeting, with a
town manager running the daily operations. Democrat Karen Spilka is the
state senator, while Pam Richardson and Tom Sannicandro, also
Democrats, are the state representatives. Ed Markey represents the town
in the US Congress.

Founded in 1700, Framingham quickly became a thriving mill town.
The decline of manufacturing has been replaced by a number of high-tech
industries. Beyond Framingham State College, the town also serves as
the corporate home of Bose Corporation, Staples, Natural Microsystems,
Perini, Lifeline, TJX, and Metrowest Medical Center.
The town also serves as a bedroom community for the thousands of
residents who make the daily drive or take the commuter rail into
Boston. However, with so many larger employers offering high-paying
jobs locally, Framingham provides a good opportunity to work in the
community.

Active Board

With a town meeting priding itself in its activist stances, it
is important that the Framingham Retirement Board remains vigilant and
works well together for the benefit of the retired and active employees.

Town Accountant Richard Howarth, Jr. is ex officio member of the
board and serves as its chairman. Howarth, who is a N. Grafton
resident, has served on the Board for ten years, his entire tenure with
the town. He previously worked for the town of Northbridge for a short
time.

Mary Ellen Kelley is the town’s chief financial officer, a
position she has held for the past eighteen months. Kelley is the
selectmen’s appointee to the Board. She has nearly twenty years of
previous service with the state and lives in Framingham.

Peter Rovinelli and Paul Barbieri are the Board’s two elected
members. They are each the Association’s go-to guys in Framingham and
are now working on bringing Chapter 157, the veterans bonus law, before
Town Meeting for reconsideration.

Rovinelli, who has served on the Board for the past eleven
years, is a Framingham fire lieutenant. He has been with the town for
over eleven years and is a longtime resident.
Barbieri, an Ashland resident, is a Framingham fire captain, with over
26 years on the job. He was elected to the board eight years ago.

Rounding out the five member board is longtime local resident
Sidney Lebewohl, who is a retired CPA. He has served on the board for
thirty years and is one of the longest serving retirement board members
in the state.

“We have a great board that works well together. Even though we
each may represent different points of view at times, it never gets
personal or contentious,” said Rovinelli. “Fortunately, we also have a
very dedicated and experienced staff. They serve our members well.”

Working with the 1,446 active and 802 retired members on a daily
basis is Executive Director Roberta Griffin. With nearly eighteen years
with the Board, Griffin, who lives in Wayland, has a wealth of
experience in dealing with the nuances of Chapter 32 (retirement law).
Alberta Pasciuti-Cummings is the Board’s assistant director. She has seven years with Framingham and lives in the town.

Completing the three-member staff is Marianne Kenney, who serves
as the administrative assistant. She is a Framingham resident and has
been with the board nine months.
Joined State Fund

Framingham is one of twenty-nine retirement systems which have
chosen to place all of their retirement assets with the Commonwealth’s
Pension Reserves Investment Trust (PRIT) Fund.

As a PRIT participating system, all of Framingham’s assets are
invested by the Pension Reserve Investment Management (PRIM) Board,
along with the state and teachers pension assets.

Framingham has just over $195 million in assets, as of January
1, 2007. The investment return for 2006 was very strong, at 16.72% (See
related story, page 1). Framingham is now approximately 70% funded.

Thomas Gibson is the board’s legal counsel, while Sovereign Bank is the custodian.

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