NEW ORLEANS -- Sewerage & Water Board Executive Director Cedric Grant will retire Nov. 30 and begin to pull in $175,401 a year for the rest of his life from the agency's pension system as he leaves under a cloud of controversy.
Grant submitted his formal resignation letter to Mayor Mitch Landrieu Tuesday after citizens' fury overflowed at a hearing called by the City Council to investigate a weekend flood that left residents' homes and businesses waterlogged. It was the second such flood in as many weeks.
As is typical after heavy rain events, city and S&WB leaders, including Grant, reiterated the refrain that the pumps can only drain 1 inch of rain the first hour that they're turned on and 1/2 half an inch every subsequent hour.
But when pressed Monday, S&WB General Superintendent Joseph Becker admitted eight of the city's pumps were out of service before a drop of rain fell Saturday. Becker and city leaders told the public the pumps were all on, working at their maximum capacity.
Becker later clarified at the City Council hearing he meant all available pumps were working at their maximum capacity.
Grant announced in a press release an hour before the hearing that he planned to retire after 40 years of service to the city. He submitted a two-paragraph retirement letter to Landrieu.
"Thank you for the once in a lifetime opportunity to lead the capital development of New Orleans and the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans,” it read in part. “It has been an honor to serve you and our community."
Grant, who has spent 40 years in government, joined the Landrieu administration as a deputy mayor in 2010. Although he still carries the title of deputy mayor, he will retire under the lucrative pension system run internally by the S&WB.
Annually, he will bring in $175,401 in pension benefits. That number is lower than Grant's current $210,000 salary.
Retirement benefits are typically calculated using the average salary of the employee's highest three years.
Grant will also continue to receive medical benefits, paying an unspecified premium rate.
Unlike his predecessor, Marcia St. Martin, a spokeswoman for Landrieu said Grant is not eligible to receive a lump-sum deferred retirement option payment. DROP allows many employees to choose to put aside pension benefits they would otherwise be earning, instead choosing to continue working.
Those benefits would then be paid to the employee in a lump sum upon retirement. St Martin's DROP payment was expected to top half a million dollars.
While Grant will not be receiving a DROP payment, he will be paid for unused sick and vacation hours.
The S&WB’s generous pension plan drew the ire of Councilwoman Stacy Head in 2013, who suggested the agency was paying retirees benefits far more than what it could afford. S&WB officials noted the utility paid $6.1 million into the plan while employees paid $1.1 million the year before.
Head suggested the S&WB consider raising the employee contribution since, she said, the plan offers benefits that are high when compared with the private sector.
For example, an employee in private industry would have to put 49 percent of his or her income into a savings plan every year to match the benefits an S&WB would receive upon retiring, Head said at the time.
Then-Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson clashed with Head, saying the plan was in place to try to attract those who might otherwise choose private-sector work.
Head said at the time that water and sewer rate increases, which would rise by 8 percent every year until 2020, would largely go toward operating costs, such as the pension plan, instead of toward infrastructure upgrades.