Westfield social media forums have been debating the issue since widow Tammy Lieberman began posting in online Facebook groups, with a petition started on Change.org titled “Approve Health Coverage for Detective Lieberman’s Family." So far, the petition has garnered 1,136 signatures with a goal of 1500. Some signatures from as far away as California and Florida.
There is also a separate Facebook group established and titled "Tammy Lieberman's Community." Tammy Lieberman has stated she is currently battling stage 4 breast cancer.
Tammy Lieberman and her children moved to Florida after selling her family home in Roselle Park back in August for a reported $330,000 according to Zillow.
According to the Asbury Park Press Data Universe, a database that lists all public employee salaries in the state of New Jersey, Eric Lieberman’s last reported salary was $123,706. This amount may or may not include a longevity bump of 9%.
Using the $123,706 reported salary, Tammy Lieberman should have received a check totaling at least $432,971 as a lump sum life insurance payout.
Additionally, the surviving beneficiary is entitled to the pension earned by Eric Lieberman during his career. During his career, Eric Lieberman contributed between 8% and 10% of his annual income to the Police and Fireman’s Retirement System. Based on Eric Lieberman’s contributions over a 27 year career, the yearly pension Tammy Lieberman will collect is equal to 50% of her estranged husband’s last yearly salary or 50% of $123,796. ($62,000 per year.)
As per the PBA contract with the Town, Eric Lieberman's surviving spouse and children are not entitled to the Town's healthcare benefits that Eric Lieberman was paying for, which was approximately 30% of the yearly cost. The contract stipulates that an employee that has completed XX amount of years of service with the Town of Westfield and 25 years service in the Police and Fireman's Retirement System is eligible to collect healthcare coverage for the employee and his spouse, including dependent children, upon retirement and until the age of 65.
Eric Lieberman had not retired from the Westfield Police Department at the time of his off-duty death and therefore the town is not required to fund health insurance for his beneficiaries.
Tammy Lieberman has been offered the opportunity to purchase insurance coverage under federal COBRA laws which would cost approximately $25,000 per year.
|Det. Eric Lieberman|
The current status of Eric Lieberman’s marriage has been the topic of debate with Tammy Lieberman stating they were working to reconcile a marriage that had them living separately for years. Sources have confirmed that Eric Lieberman remained married to allow his wife to continue receiving the health benefits provided by the Town of Westfield as per the PBA’s contract but both maintained a dating relationship with others.
Another source has stated that Tammy Lieberman currently collects social security disability benefits and that she is entitled to Medicare. Lieberman’s youngest son (14) is eligible for social security benefits until he turns 18 years old.
Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle provided an update to the media which includes a statement from Town Administrator Jim Gildea and PBA President Paul Ferry, on Tuesday, November 27, 2018. Mayor Brindle stated, “I fully support the ongoing partnership between the town and the PBA as they work together to address this issue, and I hope that their joint statement below provide some helpful clarity.”
Statement from Gildea & Ferry:
“The town and the Westfield PBA continue to mourn the loss of detective Eric Lieberman, and he is sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with his family.
Although we remain strictly prohibited from discussing the details of personnel matters, it is important that this obligation not be misconstrued as a lack of assistance or compassion for Detective Lieberman’s family.
We have, in fact, been privately working toward a solution to address their healthcare coverage concerns, and continue to do so.
We find it unfortunate that, in this process, their personal situation has been made public, with many comments being made in the absence of complete facts.
We remain firmly committed to keeping the personal details of these discussions between the town and the Lieberman family private.
More broadly, there are state and federal laws in place that guide us in these matters, and, the town has gladly exceeded it’s legal obligations on several fronts in an effort to assist Detective Lieberman‘s family during this trying time.
That being said, Detective Lieberman‘s passing has identified unintentional health coverage gaps in our collective bargaining agreement in the face of an untimely tragedy. In the absence of a contractual provision to address continuing health care coverage in this case, our policy is to defer to the federal COBRA laws, with the knowledge that a substantial life insurance payout and pension benefit traditionally assist in easing any financial burden.
Both the town and the PBA consider this an opportunity to work together to discuss improved protections moving forward.
We are committed to finding a mutually agreeable resolution that is legally, contractually, and fiscally viable in a timely manner to bring peace and security to the Lieberman family. With the current contract expiring this month, we look forward to addressing the continuation of health coverage in our negotiations. Thank you to the Westfield community for the care and compassion demonstrated to one of our own.”
The fact of the matter is that the mayor and town administrator can't award someone benefits they are not contractually entitled to, without opening the door to other claims made by past, current, and future employee's family members is a similar situation.
While awarding Tammy Lieberman lifetime health benefits might be the right thing to do emotionally and morally, the mayor and town administrator can't legally or contractually do it. As harsh as it might sound, she is only entitled to that which the PBA contract stipulates. Anything different has to be negotiated during contract negotiations.