Massachusetts Pension Abuse

Over the past year, The Boston Globe has reported on the numerous ways in which state and local officials have abused the pension system. Read more about the major players, their pensions, and the response from the Legislature below. (Reported by John Drake, Michael Levenson, Sean P. Murphy, Frank Phillips, and Donovan Slack)

Laws being abused

Photo gallery
Former lawmakers enjoying early pensions
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AFTER LOSING ELECTIONS A 1950 Massachusetts law says public officials can
take immediate pensions if they lose an election or fail to qualify for the ballot. The State Retirement Board granted the special benefits to 10 former state lawmakers
who have enjoyed early, enhanced pensions after quitting the Legislature. The loose reading of that law could cost taxpayers up to $3 million in additional costs.
Big Dig official's pension tripled after firing
After firing from state job Michael P. Lewis (left) was fired as the head of the Big Dig project, but the move allowed him to more than triple his state pension, according to records. He also gets 80 percent of his health insurance for life. The pension increase was the result of a law intended to protect employees from politically motivated dismissals.

Double dipping

Some lawmakers took advantage of statutes to receive pensions while still working. Others enhanced their pensions by adding years at other jobs to their retirement tally.
Ex-lawmaker scores both a state job, full pension check
Timothy A. Bassett was allowed to accept a job as executive director of the Essex Regional Retirement Board without giving up his $41,000-a-year state pension from a previous job. The gift came from former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, a lawmaker said. Bassett earned about $328,000 he otherwise could not have received.
Linda Bassett, the wife of Timothy A. Bassett, a former state representative and former Essex treasurer, collects $26,000 a year in pension benefits, even while continuing to work part time. About $5,500 of her pension is the result of her six years of volunteer service as a Lynn library trustee.
Increasingly light library board duty doubled pension of former senator
John A. Brennan Jr. (left), a former state senator and Beacon Hill lobbyist, was allowed to fold the years he volunteered on the Malden Public Library Board of Trustees into his pension calculation. The move doubled his pension, giving him an estimated $41,088 a year. After criticism, Brennan said he would drop $22,000 in retirement benefits.
Robert K. Lamere and Michael P. Curran lobbied the Legislature in 2002 to win pension enhancements for serving as town moderators. Lamere has a pension of about $63,000 annually, based on the 22 years of presiding over Milton's Town Meeting and 10 years as a Big Dig lawyer. For 10 years as moderator and 12 years as Canton's town counsel, Curran collects about $46,500 a year.
Big Dig official's pension tripled after firing
Paul McCann (left) left the Boston Redevelopment Authority in 2005, but he earned $162,000 last year in consulting fees from the planning agency - on top of his $97,000 a year pension.

106 collect $100,000 or more

The number of state retirees who take home pensions of $100,000 or more has more than tripled over the past five years. One hundred six retirees, or their survivors, are paid six-figure pensions. The list is dominated by university and college officials and professors, doctors, and State Police officers.

Other alleged abuses

Benefit is used to increase salaries, pensions of Massport workers
officials at the Port Authority of Massachusetts, in an arrangement that is extremely rare throughout the rest of state and local government, can take advantage of a little-known benefit to add as much as 6 percent to their paychecks by "selling back" up to three weeks of unused vacation time. For executive director Thomas Kinton Jr. (left), the perk was worth $15,875 in 2008.
Revere city council makes the most of retirement
A majority of Revere's 11 part-time city councilors are collecting full city pensions while remaining on the city payroll and receiving up to $25,000 a year in council compensation. Ira Novoselsky (left) combined state employment and a stint on the city planning board to retire at age 55 with an annual pension of about $30,000, on top of his council compensation of more than $26,500.
Josephine Shea
Josephine Shea (left), a former Norfolk County sheriff's office administrator, had her pension increased to $47,000 a year -- more than twice what those in her position usually receive. State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill voted to give Shea, a longtime political supporter of his, the bump.

Pension overhaul law passes

Patrick signs pension overhaul
Governor Deval Patrick signed a new law June 16 aimed at ending some of the most egregious pension abuses that have plagued the Massachusetts state retirement system for years. Lawmakers agreed to eliminate sweetheart provisions, tighten the rules, and - they hope - repair at least some of the damage inflicted on Beacon Hill.

Chat Transcript

Reporter Sean Murphy answered questions about state pension abuse June 10. Click here for the transcript