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Waltham retirement officials will consider former police chief's convictions in pension review

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  July 24, 2013 05:15 PM

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The Waltham Retirement Board unanimously voted Wednesday to summon former police chief Thomas LaCroix to their August meeting for a hearing, which will help them determine if he should receive his pension.

LaCroix filed paperwork to receive retirement benefits less than a month after he was convicted of twice assaulting his wife in their Maynard home last summer. He did not appear at Wednesday's retirement meeting.

A Concord District Court jury found LaCroix guilty on June 26 of assaulting his wife Andrea in their Maynard home last year. He resigned from his post July 10, the same day Judge J. Elizabeth Cremens sentenced him to a year and a half of probation.

“This is not going to be an easy one,” said Waltham Retirement Board chairman Billy MacDonald at the meeting. “We should schedule a hearing for our August meeing to get some of the facts that we don’t have. I don’t know anything about this except what I’ve read in the paper.”

Michael Sacco, the retirement board’s lawyer, said officials will be seeking information about LaCroix's convictions from the court before next month's hearing and if they can't obtain it by then they will postpone the hearing to September.

Retirement officials will also review local manuals for police code of conduct, Sacco said.

"There is no laundry list of convictions that result in a forfeiture of pension," he said after the meeting.

He said it is up to LaCroix on whether the hearing will be open to the public.

LaCroix, 50, worked for the Waltham Police Department for 26 years, and was appointed chief in 2007. Retirement officials previously told the Globe that city employees must have worked for 20 years, or 10 years if they are 50 years old or older, to qualify for pension benefits.

If approved, LaCroix’s 26 years of police service, coupled with his age, 50, would result in an annual pension equivalent to 52 percent of his average salary and longevity pay over the last three years.

Last year, LaCroix made $163,119 in salary and longevity, according to payroll records.

But if LaCroix’s convictions are found to relate to his job as chief at all, city officials could try to take away his pension under state retirement law.

Walter Foster, a Boston-based lawyer who specializes in public pension law, previously told the Globe that Waltham officials could make a “strong argument” that LaCroix should forfeit some or all of his pension.

Foster said the state allows a pension to be taken away if a person has been convicted of a crime related to his or her office.

“I know there are similar cases where arguments have been made for forfeiture because police officers are sworn to uphold the law, and people say, ‘Here you are, breaking it;” Foster said.

Sacco previously told the Globe he could not speculate on what the board’s actions would be, as LaCroix’s retirement hearing has not been held yet.

“Obviously, we’re aware he was criminally convicted, and in any circumstance where a public employee was convicted of a crime, we review the underlying facts of the case, as well as the laws that were broken, to determine whether or not those criminal convictions were a violation of laws applicable to office or position,” Sacco said, citing the state law that would allow the Retirement Board to deny LaCroix’s pension application.

LaCroix had been on paid administrative leave for a little more than a year when the jury returned the guilty verdict on June 26. He was then taken off the city payroll, but continued on unpaid leave. At that point, he had collected about $200,000 in pay after his arrest June 14, 2012, according to city payroll records.

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