Cipriano Pension Deal Is Illegal
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
When Cipriano retired in 2005, he was making about $73,000—the most he ever earned in his 29 years with the Fire Department. Now, thanks to special perks he was given by former Mayor William Macera, he is collecting $83,381.82 from a tax-free disability pension, according to town records.
That violates a state law which says that police officers and firefighters on a disability pension must earn at least 66.66 percent of their salary while they were on the job—but no more than 100 percent of their salary, according to Joe Rodio, an attorney for the town of Johnston who responded to an open records request by GoLocalProv.
The law is supposed to be enforced by the retirement board in each city and town, according to Beryl Kenyon, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Patrick Lynch. If the board comes across a questionable pension, she said they should turn it over to the local police. If police uncover evidence of criminal wrongdoing, then the Attorney General could become involved, depending on the severity of the crime, she said.
Johnston Does Not Have Retirement Board
But Johnston does not have a retirement board, according to Rodio.
When he was first hired by the town in 2003, he said he tried to form one—but said Macera blocked him from finishing his work. “Every time I got close to doing it, I was terminated and I was terminated on four occasions between ’03 and ’06,” Rodio said. He said Macera kept hiring him back because of his knowledge of labor and retirement law.
Cipriano’s pension deal also runs afoul of another state law that mandates that the state retirement board approve disability pensions, according to Rodio. The town placed Cipriano on a disability pension due to a knee injury—but never cleared it with the state retirement board, Rodio said.
That lack of oversight made it all the much easier for Cipriano and Macera to hash out a private pension deal that gave Cipriano an instant 3 percent raise in his first year of retirement, an additional monthly $250 disability benefit, and an excessive longevity pay.
Now, the town of Johnston is hoping to set matters straight. Rodio, who has been hired back under current Mayor Joseph Polisena, said the town is preparing a lawsuit against Cipriano to bring his pension compensation in line with the law.
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