WARREN - Spokespeople for area Delphi salaried retirees lashed out Tuesday at "car czar" Jay Williams receiving a letter from him that they said suggested they "get a job."
"Jay Williams is a dead end," said Bruce Gump, vice chairman of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association. "He took three months to tell us what he could have told us in three minutes, which was no answer at all."
"Jay Williams gave the retirees false hope, and that was just cruel," Mary Ann Hudzik said.
Retirees said they were encouraged when Williams, the former mayor of Youngstown, came to Youngstown on Feb. 10 to hear their case why their pensions should be restored. They took comfort in the prospect of further meetings with Williams to press their case to have their pensions restored.
Tuesday, they released a letter from Williams dated April 27 that repeated his public statements about being moved by the retirees' plight and the hardships caused by the auto industry's crisis of 2008 and 2009.
They said the letter offered no prospect that the President Barack Obama administration would take concrete measures on their behalf.
Williams, who in August became director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers for President Obama's Administration, listed training, education and entrepreneur government programs that retirees could use to restructure their lives.
He noted the administration can't discuss issues that are part of the retirees' lawsuit in U.S. district court in Detroit against the federal pension insurer Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
Williams reiterated those positions in an emailed reply Tuesday to retirees' charges, writing, "I understand that Northeast Ohio, and too many other communities like it continue to struggle to rebuild and that the process can be challenging. Following our meeting, my office has had frequent communication with Mr. Gump and we remain committed to an open dialogue as we work together to assist these communities."
Thousands of younger salaried retirees and dependents, including some 1,500 from Warren area Delphi Packard Electrical / Electronic Architecture, saw pensions cut by 30 percent to 70 percent when the PBGC took over their pension plan in July 2009 as Delphi was trying to leave Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Williams said at the time that Obama sent him to learn about their situation, and that he would relay their concerns to "appropriate parties."
The retirees said Williams committed to a followup meeting, which they said could have been a phone call, in about three weeks.
"We waited three weeks, then he said it would be another week," Gump said. "In another week, he said it would be another week. Instead of three weeks, it turned into three months.
"It was just another lie," he continued. "I'm tired of being lied to by people who couldn't care less about people who got hurt. They took care of their politically powerful people and everyone else can go pound salt."
Hudzik said a local endodontist who specializes in root canals told her he's lost 40 percent of his business due to the retirees' loss of dental insurance and pension dollars.
She reminded Williams that he once was mayor of the city that had the nation's worst concentration of poverty.
"It'll continue to spiral down further into poverty," she said.
Gump said the discovery, or information gathering, process in the lawsuit against the pension insurer is going "extremely well."
He said a schedule to provide information has been set in a court order that requires the agency's compliance.