Pension settlement ballots sent; due back by April 3

This just in from the union plaintiffs coalition:

Mail ballots have been sent to members and retirees who are eligible to participate in the first round of voting.

Voting members shall be advised that ballots must be received no later than Thursday April 3, 2014. A self-addressed, postage-paid envelope has been provided with the ballot. Ballot tabulation will be independently administered by ProMail.

Per the terms outlined in the settlement agreement, the mail balloting process for this round of voting must be completed within 60 days of February 14, 2014.

ProMail Etc. is a Providence-based nonprofit social venture affiliated with The Providence Center, a behavioral health organization, that offers job opportunities to individuals “with barriers to employment,” according to ProMail’s website.

Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for the plaintiffs, said he wasn’t sure when ProMail will finish tabulating the ballots or how the results will be announced. He directed further questions to Garry Bliss, who was a senior official in former Providence Mayor David Cicilline’s administration and is now a Providence Center executive.

“We’re not involved in the balloting tabulation process,” Sullivan told “It’s an independent thing and they do that.”

Bliss told ProMail will not begin tabulating the ballots until after the April 3 deadline. “We will begin tabulating on April 4th and complete the tabulating in an expeditious manner and then release the results to the plaintiffs,” he said.

Sullivan directed questions about how the tabulated results would be released publicly to Bliss. But Bliss in turn said questions about public release of the results should go to Sullivan. “We will be releasing the results to the plaintiffs,” he said again.

Informed of Bliss’s comments, Sullivan clarified: “Upon completion of the tabulation of the ballots they will report the results to the plaintiffs who will, in turn, report the results to the Court. I cannot tell you on what day that will occur because I do not know how long it will take ProMail to tabulate the ballots. Consistent with the process, all public filings will be made available as quickly as possible.”

A total of 24,297 ballots were sent out, according to Sullivan, a former Democratic state lawmaker.

As a reminder, ballots will only be returned if the worker or retiree wants to vote “no” – anyone who doesn’t return a ballot will effectively be casting a “yes” vote. If the settlement wins approval during this first round of voting and the judge certifies the affected workers and retirees as a class for class action purposes, a second round of voting will take place later in the spring to approve the settlement.

There’s been no indication so far that the General Assembly, which also needs to approve the settlement, will take it up anytime soon. It’s possible lawmakers will wait until all the plaintiff-side voting rounds are complete.

Here’s what the ballot union members and retirees are getting actually looks like:

RI_pension_settlement_ballot_1This post has been updated with additional comments from Garry Bliss and Ray Sullivan.

• Related: Watch: Answering your questions on the pension settlement (Feb. 21)

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