The state retirement board today voted to stop pension payments to lobbyist Richard W. McDonough, concluding “there is no credible evidence” that he was doing full-time public work during the years he was listed as the public affairs director for an agency that serves special needs students.
McDonough had been collecting $31,770 a year in pension benefits based on his work at the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, whose former executive director faces charges that he pilfered public resources to give lavish salaries and benefits to himself and a small group of insiders. Inspector General Gregory Sullivan said McDonough’s post at the collaborative “was literally a no-show job.”
McDonough, once one of the state’s most powerful lobbyists, was convicted last year of corruption, along with his friend, former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi. Sullivan found that McDonough’s position at the special education collaborative was a ruse to get him on the public payroll in order to get medical benefits and a pension.
By pretending to be a full-time employee of the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, McDonough boosted his state pension from $6,000 to more than $30,000 a year, according to a retirement board hearing officer, Michael R. Sweeney.
McDonough, who had worked for the state from 1972 to 1983, tried to rejoin the state retirement system in 2003, when he was first listed as an employee of the collaborative. At the time, McDonough was the paid lobbyist for a sister organization of the collaborative, called the Merrimack Education Center. But the non-profit center is not a state agency and working for it does not qualify employees for a public pension.
Because he was not a real state employee at the time, he was not qualified to join the system and therefore is not entitled to any pension, the hearing officer said.
He has already received $96,515 in pension benefits, which is nearly $40,000 more than he paid into the retirement system.
The board voted to suspend McDonough’s pension immediately, but decided to wait until next month before taking any steps to recover benefits already paid to him.Andrea Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.