Obituary for Charles Casella, Former CSEA President

64464Charles Casella, past president of CSEA, passed away at the age of 81 on May 31st. Charlie’s legacy is one of service to CSEA members, both active and retired, and to all state employees. 

At his death, Charlie was still an active member of the State Retirement Commission, serving on it for 35 years as CSEA’s representative. He was the longest serving member in the Commission’s history. 

Charlie had an active role in the many subcommittees of the Retirement Commission where the real work of the Commission is done. Another Union leader and member of the Retirement Commission remarked on the passing of Charlie, “I always sat next to Charlie at the Commission meetings because I knew he was thoroughly prepared for meetings, and I always wanted to get Charlie’ keen insight into the issues before us.”

Charlie viewed his role as a fiduciary to the retirement plans for State employees and those employees covered under the Municipal Employees Retirement System. When asked what he thought his fiduciary role was, he stated, “To make sure the plan was properly funded to provide benefits to the participants of the plan.” Charlie did not want to see the mistakes made prior to collective bargaining, wherein legislators typically shortchanged the funding of the plans, happen again. 

Once on the Commission, Charlie actively resisted various administration initiatives to assume rosier assumptions of the plan, so that the State could put less money into the Funds. 

Charlie was also an advocate for certain employees who worked under Personal Services Agreements (PSAs) prior to their direct employment into state service to perform the same duties. Charlies believed in these situations that they were actual state employees and should receive retirement credit for this service. 

One of the last actions taken by the Retirement Commission was the approval of two cases of P-3A members brought by retired CSEA General Counsel Bob Krzys seeking credit for their PSA time. The PSA cases saw a number of CSEA members in the P-3A and P-4 Councils receive retirement credit. Charlie viewed this as a matter of fairness for those committed to public service. 

In the early 80’s, Charlie, as president of CSEA, was adamantly opposed to the creation of the Tier II pension plan for state employees. His opposition brought about the initial passage of interest arbitration to resolve contract negotiations. Prior to interest arbitration, there was no method of resolving contract negotiations that had reached impasse. Through his opposition, the full implementation of the Tier II pension plan was delayed by two years. 

When finally implemented, the State wanted to know if CSEA would agree to allow Tier I members to move to Tier II and Tier II member the opportunity to move to Tier I if hired on or before July 1, 1984. Charlie insisted and succeeded in getting a bright line for CSEA members, those hired on July 1, 1984 or earlier would be in Tier I and those hired after July 1, 1984 would be in Tier II.  When asked why we would not allow the option, Charlie stated, “Members would make short term economic decisions that would be detrimental to their later retirement interests.” He was right and a number of CSEA members benefitted from this bright line standard including some members with PSA retirement credit. 

Charlies was also serving on the State Contracting Standards Board at the time of his death. He was one of the first appointees to the statutorily created Board. Charlie served on the Privatization subcommittee. A fellow Board stated upon hearing of Charlie’s death that she would miss his thoughtfulness and insight on the complex issues brought to the Board.

Besides being a past President of CSEA, Charlie served in many capacities with CSEA and his former Council, P-4. He worked on behalf of members before and after the advent of collective bargaining for State employees. Charlie spent many a night before collective bargaining lobbying at the General Assembly for raises for State employees.  He was even at the bargaining table after the enactment of collective bargaining. 

Charlie retired from State service in 1992, but he remained an advocate for State employees and retirees until his passing. 

Charlie’s institutional knowledge and memory will be missed by all.

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