I found this to be a tad on the mind-boggling side.
The real estate developer chosen by Governor Deval Patrick to distribute billions of dollars in federal stimulus money has been receiving a state pension ever since he was fired from his job at a state development agency in 1995, according to state records…. [U]nder a Massachusetts pension law intended to protect patronage hires from retribution, his firing entitled him to begin collecting an enhanced state pension while he was in his mid-40s….
State retirement records show that Simon has been paid $29,000 to $32,000 a year since December 1995 with his enhanced, early pension. He has collected $403,751.84 in all, according to state records.
Supposedly Mr. Simon will forego his pension payments while in his new job. But here’s a particularly nasty bit.
Simon, who also worked in the 1970s for Senate President William M. Bulger and for the Massachusetts Land Bank in the 1970s and 1980s, did not have the required 20 years of state service when he was fired.
So to qualify for his early pension, he took advantage of another quirk in state law – the ability to include pension credit for nonstate jobs. Simon asked the Essex County retirement board to have time he served as a $150-a-year member of the Ipswich School Committee added to his pension.
The board refused, but Simon appealed to a state administrative judge, who eventually ruled in his favor and awarded him five years of School Committee time.
You know, it’s this kind of thing that makes folks who aren’t reflexively anti-government want to pull out their own fingernails. Governor Patrick campaigned successfully on the notion that people should put down their cynicism about government. That’s all well and good, but government has a role to play in that equation: it needs to make a conscious effort to eliminate the practices that have built up that cynicism in the first place. And I’m afraid that the pension system, with all of its quirks and loopholes and back alleys that all seem to wind up with able-bodied people in their 40s receiving a pension, is Exhibit A.
Simon’s got his pension, and there’s not much to be done about that. Seems to me the least he could do, if he really wants to oversee the stimulus, is decline the $150,000 salary and take $1 a year instead (as I already suggested). It’s not like he needs the money, and it would send the right message.