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Watertown retirement officials to discuss taking away convicted police sergeant's pension

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  August 15, 2013 01:59 PM

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Watertown Retirement Board officials on Monday will discuss the effect that a federal drug conviction will have on a retired Watertown sergeant's pension, which he has been collecting for a year and a half.

Joseph Deignan, 58, of Framingham pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to stealing an ID while on the force and using it to get oxycodone and other prescription drugs, according to the US attorney’s office. He was convicted of unlawful possession of a controlled substance by fraud and fraud in connection with identification documents, the office of US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said.

Federal authorities said that before Deignan retired from the Watertown police force in February 2012, he stole a driver’s license while working as a traffic supervisor in 2010 and used it to forge prescriptions for oxycodone and other drugs.

An investigation found that Deignan, a 32-year veteran on the force, was traffic supervisor the night the victim was pulled over in Watertown, according to an affidavit from the US attorney's office. Since the individual's license was suspended, Watertown Police Department protocol required the officer pulling him over to confiscate the license and attach it to a report forwarded to the night's supervisor, who was Deignan at the time, according to the affidavit.

Watertown retirement officials said Deignan has been collecting a pension of $55,731 per year from the town, starting February 14, 2012. However, state law allows a public pension to be taken away if a person has been convicted of a crime related to his or her office.

The discussion of Deignan's charges at Monday's meeting will be mostly informational, said retirement director Barbara Sheehan over the phone.

"This is the first step in the process - the board needs to discuss this together as a whole," Sheehan said. "We currently don’t have any information other than what was printed in the paper."

If the board decides to go ahead, they will need to collect court documents, including police reports, Deignan's plea agreement, and other papers, before deciding if they will call Deignan before the board for a pension forfeiture hearing, Sheehan said.

"This will include our legal counsel, and he will be prepared to advise the board on steps to be taken," She said. "We’ve never had this happen before, so the board needs to be informed on what the steps are, and then make arrangements to take those necessary steps."

Thomas Gibson, the board's lawyer, said every pension forfeiture case is fact-specific.

"We have to look at the underlying facts of each and every case to decide if there is a link to their job or not," he said over the phone. "We will garner as much information as we can, and then decide if we should have a pension forfeiture hearing."

The board meeting will take place at Town Hall on Main Street at 8:30 a.m. in a lower-level hearing room.

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